HOW far can you go? What’s the range?
These are typical and expected reactions when people ask what do you drive – and the answer is an electric Golf.
And the answer is – it depends.
The official range on the NEDC cycle is 186 miles. VW quotes the usable range as 124. I work on a 130 miles rule of thumb.
So a visit down to Rivervale Leasing in Brighton in Brighton from my west London home for a feature shouldn’t be too difficult: 112 miles return but close to the edge of range.
However, I was slightly late in leaving so the journey to Brighton was taken at pace. And if there’s one thing the e-Golf doesn’t like then it’s constant 70mph motorway miles: your range quickly dissipates as the battery gives up its reserves of power.
And because I was late I didn’t bother asking to plug in once I was there.
Three hours later – and after I’d learned how Rivervale wanted to become the John Lewis of leasing – I was ready to return.
Except the range left was 82 miles – for a 53 mile journey. Predominantly uphill. Hmmm….
I set the Pease Pottage M23 services as a way point because there were fast charging services there. In case.
But I thought I’d chance trying to make it home – just to see what could be done. And started off prepared to have a relaxing journey at a rather reduced pace to that on my journey down to Brighton.
Now I’m not advocating 45-55mph on the A23 as an ideal speed to be travelling at – although I was amazed at the number of people who just dutifully pulled in behind me to create this slower moving ‘train’ – but it does conserve power.
And that’s the thing about the e-Golf. It starts to wrap its arms around the battery’s range; starts to conserve its power. By the time I got to the waypoint turn off for the chargepoint station I was into a groove. I could do this. The e-Golf could do this. We were heading back home on the single charge.
Coming to the e-Golf’s aid is a level of regenerative braking. In a normal petrol or diesel car when you brake the energy required to stop is dissipated into the atmosphere as heat. In an e-Golf, you can choose to make the most of all that energy to fill up the battery with regenerative power.
In normal drive when you lift off the accelerator the car coasts. If you knock the gear lever to the left there are three graded levels of recuperative braking from D1 to D3 that give you greater levels of regenerative power.
By the time you are in D2 and D3 the brake lights will come on automatically – the experience of lifting off the accelerator is similar to putting your foot on the brake.
The final level is to shift the gear lever from D down to B. This is ultimate regeneration. I actually use this most of the time in town. It saves me having to use the brakes and can virtually slow you to a halt. Conversely, my wife when she drives the e-Golf, prefers to use coasting. But you have the choice.
Anyway, when you and the e-Golf are on a mission to eke out the miles to home, you need all the help you can get. So with ‘B’ selected I made the most of any requirement to brake by simply lifting off the accelerator. And filling up the energy reserves.
So how did it work out?
Pretty well, I’d say. I can’t deny my range anxiety over whether the e-Golf would actually make it home but as the journey progressed I became increasing confident of the Golf’s ability to deliver.
And deliver it did. I got home with 34 miles of range still showing and quickly hooked it up to the Pod Point home charger! So, having travelled 53 miles with an 82 mile range I actually managed to gain five miles of range – on a trip that was mostly uphill. Impressive I thought.
The point here is that range can be ‘managed’.
Ideally, of course, you wouldn’t need to do this. And in the future electric car range will be much, much more. But the ability to gain mileage, or at least manage it, should not be underestimated. And it shows you how much energy is actually wasted in normal braking. Except with the e-Golf; braking gives you more go.