Tested: 2021 Volkswagen e-Golf

Galimoto Media recently took delivery of the Volkswagen e-Golf; a car that attracted numerous interest during our time with it. We wanted to see how useful this electric vehicle is within a country, and especially province (Western Cape), where electric mobility is becoming a buzzword.

A paradigm shift

Change will always place humans in two distinctive polarising groups, and the move towards e-mobility is no different. Within a country, where the import tax on these vehicles currently stands at an astronomical 45%, our initial thought was that negative perceptions would certainly outweigh the polar opposite sentiment.

During our recent time with not just the e-Golf, we realised that humans are in fact curious beings, nevermind the sentiment that they carry. Change comes with learning, which ultimately results in adaptation.

This is exactly what Volkswagen is busy with. While the e-Golf is not for sale in Southern Africa, as it was in European markets, Volkswagen is making use of this opportunity to test the market, as well as the infrastructure within the country. This is the first step of a three-part electric mobility drive, where the aim is on educating the public, whilst also receiving feedback to improve the future enrolment of these kind of products.

Luckily, and thanks to GridCars, there are currently more public charging stations in South Africa, than EVs (Electric Vehicles). These stations are also not sparsely spread across the country, with either a 22kW or 60kW charging station being available every 150km away from one another. While every recharge stop might therefore take longer than the traditional coffee or bathroom break stop, it is possible to travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg in two days.

With more developers also starting to implement communal charging stations into estates, and the GridCars public network also readying itself for 100kW chargers, range anxiety and long waiting periods might soon be something of the past. Simultaneously, the recent drive from both the National and some Provincial Governments towards Greener technology, also means that electricity generated will not only be cheaper than internal combustion engines, but also vastly cleaner.

Let’s get back to Volkswagen themselves. Along with this first phase of e-mobility, the Uitenhage plant also installed a charging infrastructure, whilst also providing training in e-mobility for the numerous Volkswagen dealers in Southern Africa.

The second and third phases of this project will see the introduction of the purposefully built ID.3 model in South Africa, as well as the first line of EVs to be sold to customers. If you, like myself, have watched the global launches and reviews of the ID.3, ID.4, and ID.5, we are certainly in for a treat. Volkswagen might be taking a cautious and timeous approach to this, yet they are currently one of the main driving forces of EV mobility in Southern Africa.

The e-Golf itself

Our test unit, while not for sale in South Africa, was based on the 2016/17 e-Golf iteration, which was sold in European markets. Volkswagen decided to initially use its most successful vehicle, the Golf, as the Guinea pig towards e-mobility. Ever since, the brand has successfully integrated what they have learned into the new ID range vehicles.

So successful is this learning process, that the new ID.5 is now capable of a 527km range.

While the e-Golf was not purposefully built as an EV, subtle changes to the car made it more viable as an EV. While it might look similar to a normal Golf, the wheels are most certainly the first giveaway. These rims are lighter and more aerodynamic, thanks to there being no thin spokes.

The main aim to get the most out of EVs is to make the car as aerodynamic as possible. Reduced drag will result in further overall range per charge.

The second giveaway of this being a converted EV, is that of the blue strips along the front grille, as well as the enormous ‘VW E.lectric’ sticker on the door panels.

Inside, the E-Golf is almost identical to a 2016/17 Golf, apart from the DSG gearbox, now also including a “Battery” mode.

The power unit itself holds a 35.8 kWh battery and produces 100kW and 290Nm of instantaneous torque. All this results in a top speed of 150km/h and a range of 200km.

This might not seem very like very far, but for a car with almost 6-year old EV technology, this is pretty good. One of our journalists even managed to drive the car (with 5 inhabitants) from Somerset West to Malmesbury and back, only charging it on a 7kW charger during the overnight stop. The e-Golf then is the perfect urban people carrier.

An average consumption of 17 – 19kWh per 100km relates to a fuel consumption of around 2 litres per 100km.

A normal Volkswagen product would see several driving modes, such as Eco, Comfort and Sport; each designed to propel the car in a different way, to make it feel more sporty, save fuel, or to electronically adjust the suspension for ultimate comfort.

The e-Golf in turn has an Eco, Eco +, and a Normal mode; each designed to use the available electricity from the power unit, differently.

While not for sale in Southern Africa, the e-Golf gave us and several onlookers an interesting and exciting prospect into the future of the manufacturer. While this is also old technology, we would purchase such an urban mobiliser within a heartbeat. 

Leave a Comment