Volkswagen's e-Golf: Adding Electric Power to the Golf Lineup

You can buy gasoline engines. A diesel. And now a Golf that is a full electric vehicle. Here’s a look.

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Although Volkswagen of America  (VoA) doesn’t have quite the traction that Volkswagen AG would undoubtedly like to see it having, especially as the Group as a whole is doing well on a global basis—the world market, according to Marc Trahan, executive vice president, Quality, VoA, was up 4.7% and VW up 6.8% and the U.S. market has been throwing off barrels of red ink—Trahan is confident that changes are aborning that will put the operation in a more-competitive position going forward. For one thing,  he notes that they are going to be establishing “a real R&D center in Chattanooga, TN, where it has an assembly plant, which will “Give us a lot more autonomy for the vehicle requirements in this market.” It is being  called the “National Research & Development and Planning Center.” The point of this is that they don’t have to go back and forth (literally and digitally) to Germany as often to get more-tailored products for the U.S. market.

Trahan says that there is a bit of a pause in product introductions—they most recently launched the Golf, but of late, they’ve simply done a refresh of the Jetta, and will be doing the same  for the Passat next year—but their stated  objective is to increase the product cadence in the U.S. market. And VW  has announced a $900-million investment to produce of a midsize, seven-passenger SUV, which is generally referred to as “CrossBlue,” based on the  name of the concept vehicle. That vehicle is to will be built in the Chattanooga plant, which will receive approximately $600-million of the total investment.

(One interesting point about Volkswagen  in North America that he mentions: with the Golf, Jetta, and Beetle produced  in Puebla, Mexico—which he says is the highest-volume production facility in North America—and the Passat in Chattanooga, more than 85% of the vehicles it sells in North America are locally produced.)

AN EFFECT OF MQB.  Overall, VW has made some incremental changes to its offerings, like a refresh on the Jetta and minor tweaks here and there to other models (e.g., new wheels for the CC; more content in the Tiguan), a notable development is the 2015 e-Golf, VW’s first electric vehicle (EV) in the U.S. market. The e-Golf, like other seventh-generation Golfs, is built on the MQB—Modular Transfer Matrix—platform. What is interesting about that is the way that the platform is architected: it can readily accommodate gasoline and diesel engines, as well as the electric motor and battery pack for the EV version. And should VW want to come out with a fuel-cell variant, the MQB can accommodate that as well, without sacrificing interior room.

Consider that the e-Golf is propelled by a 12,000-rpm, synchronous permanent-magnet alternating current (AC) motor (code-named EEM-85). The motor produces 115 hp (85 kW) and 199 lb-ft of torque (270 Nm) in standard drive mode. The motor is mated to a single-speed EQ270 transmission that powers the front wheels. (The motor and transmission were both developed by VW and are  produced at its components manufacturing plant in Kassel, Germany.)

POWER & SPACE. The e-Golf is powered by a 323-volt, 24.2-kWh lithium-ion battery that consists of 264 individual prismatic cells packaged into 27 modules. (The battery was co-developed with Panasonic.) The modules are designed so that no active cooling is required. The battery weighs 701 lb. It is produced at VW’s Braunschweig plant.
There is the battery management controller (BMC) in front of the battery pack, which has a variety of functions, including regulating temperatures in the battery junction controller, which is the interface to the motor’s energy supply. The power electronics module controls the high-voltage energy—the battery runs between 250 and 430 volts—converts the battery’s DC energy into AC. 

There is a 7.2-kW onboard charger. It allows charging with 110/120-V (it requires approximately 20 hours for a full charge); a 240-V wall box (Bosch [bosch.com] is the supplier), which allows charging in less than four hours; and as there is a Combined Charging System that meets the SAE DC fast-charging requirements, it can reach an 80% state of charge in approximately 30 minutes (VW is working with ChargePoint (chargepoint.com) for its network of public charging stations).

While battery packs in existing cars often take up existing cargo or interior space, thanks to the MQB, there is no difference between the interior volume (93.5-ft3) of the e-Golf or any other 2015 Golf variants. There is the same 22.8-ft3 behind the rear seats and the same 52.7-ft3 with the rear seats folded.

THE RANGE. The e-Golf range is predicated on a number of factors, ranging from the ambient temperature to the state of charge to driving style. The vehicle features two driver-select- able settings that can help improve range. One is the ability to drive in “Normal,” “Eco” or “Eco+” mode. Normal provides the full horsepower and torque of the motor and will allow the car to get up to an electrically limited top speed of 87 mph. Eco reduces the available power from 115 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque to 94 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. In addition to which, the air conditioning system performance is reduced, as is the throttle response. The top speed in Eco mode is 72 mph. Then there’s Eco+ mode, which brings the output to 74 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque. The throttle response curve is flattened and the air conditioning is flat-lined (i.e., switched off). The top speed here is 56 mph.

The second driver-selectable setting is for the regenerative braking system, which uses the kinetic energy from braking to drive the generator to recharge the battery. D1 is the first level of regenerative braking; this is accessed by lifting from the accelerator or by tapping the shift lever to the left. This  results in a small amount of energy being recouped. Then there are additional levels—D@ and D3/B—that provide increasing levels of regenerative braking.

That said, Volkswagen puts the “real- world” range for an e-Golf between 70 and 90 miles.

DESIGN. While the e-Golf exterior resembles the engine-powered versions, there are some variations (beyond the obligatory badges). For example, there are LED headlights used. These are more energy efficient than Bi-Xenon head-lights, and provide greater illumination. This is the first use of LED headlights on a VW in the U.S. There are special 16-in. aluminum- alloy wheels that are specifically designed for improving aerodynamic performance (and are surrounded by low rolling resistance tires). There are shutters behind the grille, underbody panels, a rear spoiler, and air vanes on the C-pillar. The e-Golf has a coefficient of drag of 0.27. A non-e has a coefficient of drag of 0.29.

Inside, the vehicle has touches like blue  accents (blue is a signifier of this being an electric vehicle). And, of course, there are changes to the gauges and the interfaces in order to provide information about energy use, state of charge, etc.

The most notable thing about the interior is what isn’t there. Because there is no engine, there aren’t the familiar noise and vibration that exist no matter how well muffled or otherwise attenuated. One result is that wind and tire noise become all the more noticeable, as well as non- familiar noises from the electric motor and accessories. So not only has VW deployed extensive amounts of sound-absorbent materials in the cabin, but they’ve put the motor into a low-noise housing and used a pendulum-style subframe for the motor, which also helps minimize noise generation.

REALLY GREEN. According to Joerg Sommer, vice president of Product Marketing and Strategy for Volkswagen of America, each e-Golf will be carbon- neutral for 36,000 miles. Even the emissions related to the manufacturing are being addressed for the e-Golf. They are working with 3Degrees (3degreesinc.com) which provides carbon offsets through planting trees.