Back at the start of the year during a keynote at CES 2016, Dr. Herbert Diess, Chairman of the Board of Management at Volkswagen AG, unveiled the Budd-e — the latest in a long line of all-electric concept microbusses designed to evoke fond memories of Volkswagen’s Type 2 microbus and push the brand towards a brighter, more environmentally conscious future. Showcasing a brand-new modular platform (known internally as MEB) the Budd-e promised a future where Volkswagen electric cars boasted a 100 kilowatt-hour battery pack capable in excess of 373 miles per charge, as well as a next-generation rapid charge system capable of replenishing the car’s battery pack from empty to 80 percent full in 15 minutes.
At the same time, he presented a new concept car based on the current generation Volkswagen e-Golf called the Volkswagen e-Golf Touch. Featuring a next-generation infotainment system and dashboard complete with gesture control as well as advanced safety features and a larger, longer-range battery pack, we were told the e-Golf Touch concept was a preview of what to expect when Volkswagen launched the mildly refreshed production 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf later this year.
While the e-Golf Touch was touted as a moderate refresh to the existing e-Golf, perhaps with a range around 30 percent greater than the existing 2016 e-Golf, various Volkswagen executives have since promised that the real change to the Volkswagen e-Golf would come in late 2018 when VW launched its eighth-generation Golf family. Then, we were told, Volkswagen would launch a new e-Golf based on MEB with a range in excess of 186 miles per charge.
Yet at this weekend’s FIA Formula E e-prix in Berlin, Germany, Volkswagen’s head of electric vehicle development, Dr. Volkmar Tanneberger, told reporters that the upcoming 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf — the very car previewed back in January at CES — would be entering production late this fall with an NEDC range of 186 miles per charge. Essentially a mid-cycle refresh for the model, that range increase will be made possible thanks to a larger, more energy-dense battery pack capable of storing 35.8 kilowatt-hours of electricity.
Which raises a question: has Volkswagen really pushed forward plans to build an e-Golf with 186 miles of range per charge by two years?
Not exactly. You see, while previous reports — including our own — quoted Volkswagen executives as stating the 2019 e-Golf would have a range of 186 miles per charge in the real world, we think there’s some cross-communication going on. Given that much of Volkswagen’s Dieselgate crisis is said to have been perpetuated by a lack of cooperation and communication between departments, we can certainly believe something has been lost in translation.
Let’s look at the evidence.
At CES, Dr. Diess casually mentioned while unveiling the e-Golf Touch Concept that the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf would come with a battery pack that is around 30 percent larger in capacity (and range) than the existing 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf. Since the existing Volkswagen e-Golf has an official battery capacity of 24.2 kilowatt-hours and an EPA-rated range of 83 miles per charge, a 30 percent increase would yield a battery capacity of around 31.46 kilowatt-hours and an EPA range (assuming weight increase was kept to a minimum) of 107.9 miles per charge.
We know what you’re thinking: that’s quite a way from the quoted 186 miles being touted by Dr. Tanneberger. But the figure quoted is on the overly-optimistic NEDC test cycle, which tends to give mileage figures that are as much as 45 percent larger than the EPA test cycle for the same vehicle. Take the 2016 Nissan LEAF SV for example, complete with 30 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. On the EPA test, it’s rated at 107 miles per charge. On the NEDC test cycle, the same car is rated as having a 155 mile range.
Which brings us back to the upcoming 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf with 35.8 kWh battery pack. That capacity increase roughly represents a 48 percent increase in battery capacity over the 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf’s 24.2 kWh pack. If we assume negligible differences in battery pack weight, that would translate to a real-world range of around 125 miles per charge on the EPA test cycle (since a 48 percent increase in range on the 2016 e-Golf’s 84 miles would bring us to just shy of 125 miles).
Given that the NEDC test cycle can overestimate as much as 45 percent or more, that ball-park estimated EPA figure we just gave you of 125 miles per charge would come in at 181 miles or thereabouts on an over optimistic NEDC cycle. Add a few percent here and there for rounding errors, and you’re almost exactly where Volkswagen’s engineers are quoting: 186 miles.
Our conclusion? The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf and its claimed 186-miles of NEDC range will translate to around 125 miles of EPA range, giving real-world figures anywhere from 120 miles to 135 miles in everyday use, depending on driver skill, weather conditions and terrain. That’s far from exciting, but it does put the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf above the 2016 Nissan LEAF and 2017 BMW i3 in terms of range per charge.
Which leaves us with one loose end to tie up: the claimed 186-miles of NEDC range promised for the next-generation 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf.
Based on what we know of the car, Volkswagen is likely to develop the next-generation e-Golf on the same MEB platform used as a platform for the Budd-e Concept we saw back in January. That vehicle, even with its unaerodynamic microbus body, was said to produce a range of 373 miles per charge on the NEDC test cycle (around 250 miles on the EPA test cycle).
Assuming Volkswagen uses the same capacity battery pack — and there’s no guarantee it will (since the whole point of MEB is that it is a modular platform that can accommodate different battery sizes and drivetrain components) — the next-generation, 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf could conceivably travel in excess of 250 miles per charge on 100 kilowatt-hours of energy storage.
We’ll just have to wait a few more years to find out if we’re right.
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