Big week: I can celebrate 2,000 commuter miles on our new electric vehicle. Time for an interim report.
Last November, we ordered the just-introduced Volkswagen e-Golf. We had been looking at electric cars for some time, but they were either too expensive (Tesla) or just too strange (i3). We wanted something that looked and felt like a car. With the e-Golf, Volkswagen was offering a, well … totally normal Golf. (In a gesture of inimitable understatement, their electric vehicle even has two large analog instruments in the dashboard, a speedometer and an indicator for electricity flow.)
I am using the electric vehicle on a daily basis for my commute – a 74-mile round trip. The office I am working in does not have any chargers. There are actually not that many public charging stations in O.C. But overall, the greater Los Angeles area has a reasonable infrastructure of about 2,000+ public chargers (according to ChargePoint).
To be honest, I had my doubts about doing the daily commute on one charge. Volkswagen advertises “up to” 83 miles per charge, and the official numbers are 126 (city) and 105 (highway) MPGe. However, the MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) is a totally useless piece of information for an all-electric vehicle. The car has a 24 kWh battery, and the crucial information is how many miles you can squeeze out of each kWh.
Even more than with an ICE, you can see (and you have to deal with the effects of) how unreasonable driving habits drain your fuel, i.e. empty your battery. Although it is tempting to step on the accelerator and let the 199 lb-ft of torque do their thing, accelerating slowly and gradually will save a lot of electricity. The top speed is responsible for another big chunk of electricity consumption. The higher the speed, the more electricity the car uses. I’m trying as much as possible to stick to the legal speed of 65 mph on urban L.A. freeways. In addition, using the regenerative braking will slow down the car gradually, similar to shifting down in a manual transmission car. This recharges the battery and puts a lot less wear on the brakes. Not to forget: Headlights and air-conditioning (and heating, if you live in a cold region), will use up additional electricity. Driving at slower speeds also reduces stress. It is well worth the 5 to 10 minutes more it takes to commute.
So on a regular working day, I drive to work; at lunch time, I add another 2 and 5 miles; in the afternoon I drive home. Starting with a fully charged battery, this brings me back home with 18 to 23 miles to spare. “Range anxiety” is a new phenomenon that has grown with the ever increasing numbers of EVs and their usually limited reach, but I go through my daily commute without it. The car communicates with me through an app, and thanks to the accumulated driving data I can see that on a good day, my commute gives me between 4.6 to the occasional 5.0 miles per kWh. The app also lets me organize delayed charging and it tells me on a map where the car is. Hopefully, the app and the interaction between car and app will improve with future updates. (Have a look at the to see some screenshots of the app.)
The pros are (in addition to the obvious zero emission driving): A quiet and smooth ride. Very well appointed (the one available trim level offers pretty much everything). A full-sized car (at least as “full sized” as all Golfs are). You can use the car pool lane with just the driver in the car. Special convenient parking spots reserved in some parking garages (for example in Santa Monica). It is not difficult to exceed the official battery range.
The cons are (and some of them are minor): Terrible (and I mean terrible) handbook. Very sketchy instructions on charging. An annoying lack of knowledge at dealerships and headquarters about specific functions of the car. The voice of the navigation system is the best I’ve heard, very clear, very correct, even with the Spanish street names in L.A. On the other hand, the navigation is kind of lacking. Traffic info is badly integrated, screen resolution is poor. Delayed charging is a mystery, it sometimes works, it sometimes doesn’t. Settings selected by the driver don’t stick. Next time you start the car they are back to standard settings. Annoying. Charging port does not release the locked connector when the battery is full. Needs releasing with the key fob.
In conclusion, I am very happy to have switched to an EV and especially to the e-Golf. I love driving it. With such a new kind of car one has to accept that, at least in the beginning, we all are test drivers for Volkswagen. I hope that VW will give EVs the priority they deserve and not merely treat them as a means to achieve their mandated CO₂ balance. (But I am cynical enough not to hold my breath.)