Published March 22, 2012
By Jeff Cobb
This week Volkswagen of America announced it will be bringing a test fleet of 20 battery electric Golfs to the U.S. for a nine-month research project beginning in April.
The E-Golf pilot program will take place in the Detroit Metro, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. markets, and a dozen of the cars will be handed to VW employees to put through their paces.
Aside from insignias setting them apart, the prototype electric Golfs, look indistinguishable from their ordinary four-door siblings.
Propulsion, however, is handled by a 199-pound-foot electric motor powered by a 26.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack consisting of 180 cells.
Test drivers will be asked to evaluate services designed for the E-Golf. For example, in each of the employees’ homes, VW will place a 220-volt charging station (and presumably the other testers will have similar chargers installed). The E-Golfs will come with an iPhone and a dedicated app to allow remote checking of the battery’s charging status, regulate the car’s internal temperature, gauge how much charging time is left, or remotely start the charging procedure.
“During this test we will examine in detail all the technical and administrative aspects of typical consumers using electric vehicles on an everyday basis,” said Dr Rudolf Krebs, executive vice president and head of Volkswagen Group E-Traction. “For a successful market launch of electric vehicles, the way that home chargers are handled is very important, along with easy access to public charging infrastructure. For the U.S., we also have to recognize the specific legal regulations as well as the different characteristics of the electricity supply: both the reduced 110-volt mains supply and the type of charging plugs.”
VW has also set up a dedicated Web portal for the drivers of this mini-fleet which will offer 24/7 support in case questions arise, and in order to allow drivers to share their feedback.
As for traveling range, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not attached an official estimate on the vehicles yet, but VW is saying they will go 93 miles on a full charge depending on driving style and whether one taps the energy further with air conditioning or heater use.
VW says energy may potentially be preserved via a few built-in features, including via coasting whenever the driver releases the accelerator pedal, three driving modes, and three settings for regenerative braking.
The production E-Golf is projected to reach U.S. showrooms in late 2013.