Test Drive: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf
The all-electric 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf symbolizes the conflicts inherent in the growing pressure from international governments to switch from fossil fuel to electric powered vehicles
Based on VW's conventional gas-powered Golf, the all-electric version is well designed, well built and fun to drive. But it also tops out at around 126 miles of range, which is an improvement over earlier EVs, but still might be of concern for those worried about having to drive longer distances for work or family emergencies.
The tradeoffs will likely be acceptable for many people who want to reduce their carbon footprints and still enjoy driving, but who don't want to become completely dependant on transit, car-sharing services, short-term car rentals and bikes.
But an adjustment in thinking needs to be made. The 2017 VW e-Golf is considered an "affordable" EV, like the completely redesigned Nissan Leaf and the all-new Hyundai Ionic EV. But, with a base price of $30,495, it costs thousands more than the gas-powered version or any number of similar-sized gas-powered cars, all of which get relatively good mileage, especially compared to older cars. Federal and Oregon incentives can reduce the price by $10,000 for those who fully qualify, however.
And the e-Golf get around 100 miles of range less than the newly released Chevy Bolt, which is also considered affordable. The Bolt costs thousands more than the e-Golf, however.
You can compare prices and ranges forever. At this point in the transition from fossil fuel to electric powered cars, you either decide to do it or not. If you decide to go for it, the 2017 VW e-Golf is one of the best choices because of everything about it that has nothing to do with its all-electric powertrain. Put simply, it is also great to drive because of its engineering, ample interior room and on-the-road dynamics.
The big advantage the e-Golf has over most other affordable EVs is that it's a genuine Golf, which is one of the best driving compact cars on the road. It may have an electric motor and direct drive transmission instead of a gas engine and manual or automatic, but just about everything else looks and feels the same. The exterior is cleanly styled and the interior is well designed and outfitted with quality materials, just like all Volkwagens these days.
On the road, the e-Golf may be even more fun to drive than the gas version because — like all EVs — all the torque from the electric motor is instantly available, giving it great acceleration. Although enthusiasts prefer manual transmissions, the direct drive in the e-Golf is at least as satisfying as most automatic transmissions.
Charging is still an issue that needs to be addressed with any EV. I don't have a Level 2 charger at my home, so it would take many hours to fully recharge the battery if I ran it all the way down. I didn't, but I always plugged the e-Golf in whenever I was home for any length of time and always overnight, just to be sure I was ready if an unexpectedly long trip suddenly came up.
My test e-Golf was equipped with both a Level 2 and a Fast Charger port, which meant I could have recharged it much faster at any available public charging station. I never had to because of my schedule, but those considering an EV should read up on the public charging situation in their region before making a final decision. Many plans have been announced to substantually increase the availability of public charging stations across the county, but it's unclear when they will be fulfilled.
That said, a lot of momentum is building politically to dramatically increase the number of EVs on the road. Officials in China, France, Germany and even California are all talking about banning fossil fuel powered cars at some point in the future. To learn more about EVs locally, visit https://forthmobility.org.
2017 Volkswagen e-Golf
Base price: $30,495
Price as tested: $36,995
Style: Compact hatchback
Engine: Electric motor (134 hp, 214 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Direct drive
EPA fuel economy: 126 miles city/111 miles highway
Length: 168.1 inches
Weight: 3,450 pounds
Final assembly: Dresden, Germany