Most electric cars don't come as non-electric cars, which is one of the things that makes VW's e-Golf electric car unusual — and interesting. You can cross-shop it against itself.
What It Is
The e-Golf is the electric version of VW's popular five-door Golf hatchback.
It's exactly the same in many ways but also very different in other ways. Both Golfs look almost exactly the same, except for the badges. And they have exactly the same room for passengers and cargo, which is impressive since the e-Golf was converted into an electric car from a car that wasn't originally designed to be an electric car.
Where did they put the batteries? There's no sign of them — all 400 pounds of them.
They also differ radically under the hood and on the road. The e-Golf burns no gas and never has to be filled up. But it does need to be plugged in, more frequently than the regular Golf needs to be gassed up. It only goes about half as far, 125 miles, on a full charge.
It's also more expensive, $31,895 versus $21,845 for the same car without the electric drivetrain.
VW now includes "fast" charge capability as part of the e-Golf's standard equipment package. This means the car can recover about 80 percent of its charge, about 100 miles of driving range, in 30 to 45 minutes by plugging into a 240-volt charging station. The reason it's not 100 percent is to prevent damage to the battery, the most expensive part of an electric car. On standard 120-volt household current, you can recharge to 100 percent, but it takes several hours at least.
No more gassing up.
No loss of cargo capacity or passenger space.
What's Not So Good
Range is less than other electric vehicles' (EVs) and much less than non-EVs'.
Cost will probably never be recovered in money not spent on gas.
Under the Hood
Instead of the regular Golf's 1.4-liter, 147-horsepower gas-burning engine and standard six-speed manual transmission, the e-Golf has a direct-drive electric motor powered by a 35.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. There is no transmission.
The motor produces 134 horsepower and 214 foot-pounds of torque at zero rpm. It can also spin to 12,000 rpm, almost twice as fast as the regular Golf's gas engine can rev.
Zero to 60 mph takes just over 8 seconds — burning no gas at all.
But once again, you're limited to about 125 miles of driving before the battery pack needs to be recharged. And as a practical matter, this range is less than 125 miles because of the time it takes to recharge. You can't risk running too low on charge without risking being stuck were you are for at least 30 to 45 minutes — if you can find a fast charger. If not, you could be stuck overnight.
On the Road
Electric cars accelerate impressively as well as silently. It's like driving a V-8 muscle car without the V-8 muscle car sound. Or gas bills.
But you can only drive so far, and once you've driven that far, you can't just gas up and go. You have to find a place to plug in. And then wait.
This means planning around both range and recharging.
At the Curb
The e-Golf doesn't look like an electric car, and that makes it different from obvious electric cars like Teslas and the Nissan Leaf.
It's also just as roomy as the non-electric Golf, with the same 41.2 inches of legroom upfront and 35.6 inches of legroom in back, as well as 22.8 feet of cargo capacity behind the back seats (52.7 cubic feet with the back seats folded).
You can get most of the tech/luxury features offered in the non-electric Golf, including VW's 12.3-inch Digital Cockpit LCD display and secondary 9.3-inch infotainment screen with gesture control. Just wave at it to engage the various functions.
The e-Golf's main deficit when compared with other electric cars as well as the non-electric Golf is its modest range on a full charge. The Nissan Leaf, for example, can go as far as 200 miles on a charge, but it also costs substantially more.
The Bottom Line
The e-Golf is more interesting than practical. But that doesn't mean it's not worth a look, especially if you're interested in something different.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.