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First look: Volkswagen’s electric Golf

Show time: Volkswagen development chief Ulrich Hackenburg (left) shows the VW Golf Blue-E-Motion to German transport minister Peter Ramsauer.

Plug-in Golf emerges as Volkswagen confirms electric versions of next-gen small cars

4 May 2010

VOLKSWAGEN has revealed the first all-electric version of its global top-seller, the Golf, which previews the zero-emissions drive system and plug-in lithium-ion battery technology that will power a range of new small cars from 2013.

Spokesman for the German maker in Australia, Karl Gehling, said: “It is far too early to comment on the chances of the Golf Blue-E-Motion being sold here, but we would certainly have a close look at it if the opportunity arises.”

The Golf Blue-E-Motion will follow the release of the Up Blue-E-Motion, a “city specialist” model, the pint-sized city-EV that debuted in concept guise at the Frankfurt motor show last September.

Presenting his company’s answer to Germany's ‘National Platform for Electric Mobility’ to German chancellor Dr Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday (May 3), Volkswagen AG chairman Martin Winterkorn confirmed the German giant’s first plug-in small-car, based on the next-generation Mk7 Golf, will go on sale in Europe and the US in 2013.

Its all-electric drivetrain will also be fitted to the Chinese-market Lavida and the Golf-based Jetta sedan, an all-new version of which will be launched globally mid-year.

At the same time, Volkswagen has confirmed it is developing a range of hybrid models in addition to the Touareg hybrid already on sale in Europe.

Despite the fact its mechanical twin, the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid, will go on sale in Australia in July, Volkswagen says lack of local demand will prevent the petrol-electric Touareg being released here in the short-term.

A hybrid Jetta will follow in 2012, powered by the hybrid drive system revealed in VW’s Coupe Concept at the Detroit motor show in January, while Golf and Passat hybrids will go on sale in Europe in 2013.

Revealed in the current Mk6 Golf, VW’s newest EV powertrain includes an 85kW/270Nm electric motor mounted in the engine bay, driving the front wheels through a new single-speed gearbox developed by VW and known internally as the MQ210.

The air-cooled Li-Ion battery pack that powers it is positioned within the centre tunnel of the floorpan, under the rear seat and below the floor of the boot, which offers slightly less space at 237 litres.

3 center image Left: Up Blue-E-Motion. Below: VW Coupe Concept hybrid.

Its capacity of 26.5 kiloWatt-hours is claimed to provide a zero-emissions driving range of 150km, although VW has not revealed details on recharging rates.

VW cites German Federal Statistical Office figures that show six out of every 10 people in the workforce commute by car, with an average of 45.8 per cent driving less than 10km (one-way), another 28.1 per cent driving between 10 and 25km and just 16.2 per cent driving more than 25km.

The Golf Blue-E-Motion incorporates a separate clutch that automatically decouples the electric motor on a trailing throttle. Reducing mechanical drag to produce what VW describes as a “sailing effect”, the system is similar to that employed by the new Touareg and Cayenne hybrids.

VW says the five-door, five-seat Golf EV weighs 1545kg – 205kg more than a comparable Golf BlueMotion TDI with DSG transmission. Performance claims include 0-100km/h acceleration in 11.8 seconds and a top speed that is limited to 140km/h in the interests retaining battery charge.

Volkswagen says it will build a test fleet of up to 500 examples of the Golf Blue-E-Motion ahead of full-scale production in 2013.

“Volkswagen wants to use best-sellers such as the Golf to take electric vehicles out of their niche model status and to become the market leader for a new type of sustainable mobility by 2018,” says Volkswagen.

“This strategy coincides with planning by the German federal government, which would like to see about one million electric vehicles on the streets by 2020.”

Prof Winterkorn urged the German government to increase power production from renewable sources, in an effort to avoid shifting CO2 emissions from vehicle exhausts to power plants.

“Future electric cars give us enormous opportunities for reshaping mobility to be even more sustainable,” he said. “When it comes to the environment, however, we must ensure that the energy used to operate these electric cars is produced from renewable sources.

“Since automotive manufacturers do not have any influence on the types of power plants that are built, the federal government must ensure that eco-friendly energy sources are utilised. Only then will we experience a genuine transition to a new era.”

Volkswagen says that in parallel with its hybrid and all-electric vehicle technologies, it will continue to develop turbocharged internal combustion (TSI) petrol, (TDI) diesel and (EcoFuel) natural gas engines – “because it is an indisputable fact that a wide variety of drive technologies will coexist far into the future”.

Prof Winterkorn called on the German government to support the introduction of new vehicle technologies, including hybrid and EV, via direct cash incentives for purchasers as well as establishing recharging infrastructure.

“With regard to electric mobility, the current temporary exemption of E-cars from taxes is inadequate,” he said. “Starting in 2013 – the launch year for many new electric vehicles – the purchase of cars with zero-emissions drive systems should be promoted with a sustainability incentive.

“France, for example, has already pledged a cash incentive of several thousand euros to buyers. We need to send such a signal in Germany as well.

“Moreover, and this is no less important, the German federal government must very quickly make provisions for broad coverage with a network of recharging stations across the republic, so that the infrastructure is available at the same time the electric car offensive is launched.

“Each new recharging station will also reinforce the public’s trust in the everyday utility of electric vehicles. Both of these components – state-funded incentives and infrastructure – are crucial and cannot endure any delay.”

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