Volkswagen plugs into electric market with e-up!
07:03 17 April 2014
Electric power transforms Volkswagen’s up! into an enjoyable, sophisticated alternative mode of urban transport, says Iain Dooley, of the Press Association.
Price: £19,250 including £5,000 government grant
Power unit: 81bhp electric motor
Transmission: Single-speed transmission driving the front wheels
Performance: 0-60mph 12.4 seconds, top speed 81mph
Range: Around 93 miles
Volkswagen is the latest to throw its hat into the electric car ring with the amusingly titled e-up!. Joking aside, electrification of VW’s city car promises a conventional ownership experience for those not won over by rival cars styled like futuristic spaceships.
Volkswagen has chosen to observe the ups and downs of its rivals before committing to the electric car arms race. The logic is sound – learn from the mistakes and fuzzy logic of others.
Volkswagen has based its city-centric electric car on an existing model, which has kept costs down. Although investment in the project has been considerable, there’s no bespoke, low-volume platform and factory here. The electric up! is built alongside the regular one.
Where the engine was is now an 81 horsepower motor and single-speed gearbox. Under the floor sits the lithium-ion battery pack and you sacrifice a paltry one litre of boot space in the name of electric power.
That’s it in terms of switching to alternative power motoring. Granted, you’ll need a charging strategy, but the e-up! comes with both a conventional mains cable for the familiar nine-hour, overnight cycle and a DC cable for much faster charging when out in the field. VW has also struck a deal with British Gas, with the fitment of a dedicated wallbox reducing home charging times to six hours.
In the cabin, the auto-style gearlever is the only hint that something’s different. Look closer and the main instrument pack includes a remaining charge gauge and regenerative charge indicator.
Driving is no more difficult than shifting to ‘D’ while acceleration from rest delivers the now familiar electric car thrust you can’t find elsewhere. On the move the e-up! delivers a balanced, refined and engaging drive just like its petrol counterpart, with the bonus of added lowdown thrust and near-silent running at low speeds.
Fine tuning the experience to boost range – officially a reasonable 93 miles according to VW – is easy. The brake regeneration effect is modest in D but can be boosted incrementally by shifting the gearlever through D1, D2 and D3.
One click further to ‘B’ results in sufficient regeneration effort to allow you to almost stay off the brake pedal around town. Don’t worry, the brake lights work in all these various modes.
Two separate modes – Eco and Eco+ – can be toggled to reduce the motor’s output if you wish to further enhance range. The latter’s effect includes bypassing the climate control, and although the drop in motive power is noticeable it’s not an issue if you spend all your time in town.
Still need convincing? It’s no coincidence that the e-up! is the best equipped of the range. From the snazzy alloy wheels to the supplementary sat-nav, trip and range computer combo you’ll want for nothing. Furthermore, the £5,000 government grant brings the asking price down to just under £20,000.
The e-up! might not be the cheapest electric car on the market but, for some, it’ll offer the most conventional driving and ownership experience. Combined with a range of attractive purchase and leasing options, Volkswagen’s done a great job in delivering a straightforward, fuss-free alternative to conventional petrol-powered urban motoring.