Firstly thank you to the VW press office for driving the Volkswagen e-up! in a trailer from their HQ in Milton Keynes – of course the car could have made it with the driver at the wheel but a minimum one recharge stop would have been required to deliver the car to Digicars HQ in Leeds.
So what do we know about the e-up!, other than the wry expressions that its model name triggers in Northern England? Well, after your £5000 government grant the recommended retail price is £19,270 – a pretty typical price tag for the UK pure electric vehicle. With a top speed of 81mph, the e-up!’s power is created from a 230 kg lithium-ion battery pack, consisting of 204 cells, rated at 374 volts and 18.7 kWh. With an insurance group of 10E, lower charging cost replacing any fuel costs and zero CO2 tailpipe emissions there are some immediate quick wins on the motoring costs side as there are with most electric cars. The e-up! arrived as the latest up! variant in January 2014.
It’s worth stating at this point that the VW e-up! warranty is strong, covering you not only for 3ys/60K miles but also 5 years e-components plus 8 years / 99,360 miles battery. There is also the standard 1 year VW Assistance (UK & Europe) so take all of these points as added security if you are hesitant about the ‘range’ issue that all electric cars are currently limited by.
The recommendation from VW is to charge the e-up! battery slowly for the majority of the time because excessive amounts of fast charging will have a negative effect on the battery. The e-up! can self-charge its battery in the ‘B’ mode but you have to keep your revs down and the output of charging in this way (like with all self charging electric car tech) is a bit limited. After a week of driving, you become a champion of self charging and ‘Eco’ / ‘Eco+’ options to keep you ‘in the game’ once out of urban style driving. Incidentally ‘Eco’ cuts the e-up!! peak power to 50KW and the ‘Eco+’ performs the same trick but limits the power to a maximum of 40KW.
OK so lets talk electric car charging strategy. We already know that the vast majority of EV owners like to charge at home for pure convenience. You can charge from a normal domestic electrical socket and lock the vehicle; certainly very practical for those with garages less cluttered than mine. You can also take advantage of the standard fitted DC fast-charging circuit. This ‘Combined Charging System’ (CCS), charges a flat battery to 80% in 30 minutes, at levels of up to 40 kW using a DC supply. I went the easy way of charging the car using a domestic electrical socket; I charged the car 3 times in one week (2 hours per charge) and carried out 97 miles of driving – which left the car still nearly fully charged. This is clearly a great, fun car for urban motoring.
The instrument cluster in front of the steering wheel provides you with a plethora of e-vehicle range information to keep you informed of how your driving style and onboard entertainment decisions are affecting your battery charge. It’s all very good fun – almost liberating.
The Garmin sat nav integration is smooth and assists you in finding the nearest charging stations as well as full Bluetooth integration and DAB radio. Initially with any EV, there is a feeling of “is it on?” (when my 5 year old accompanied me for a spin he said those precise words) that takes a few drives to fully go away. The eerie quietness of the e-up! quickly becomes part of its charm and the strong, responsive acceleration that this car possesses really provides a fantastic driving experience, particularly for the urban warriors. The transmission is automatic and once you’ve turned the key you just lift your foot off of the brake to allow gear selection and you’re away.
When out and about I noticed pedestrians and cyclists giving the e-up! a second look, possibly for stylistic reasons but most probably down to the hushed pure electric motor. At one point, a taxi driver who had his windows down pulled out of a junction in front of me presumably because he was half watching half listening for a car but couldn’t hear one. As electric vehicles increase in popularity, we will gradually retrain our senses to concentrate less on the ‘listen’ and much more on the ‘look’ of the Highway Code.
My first 4 days was all about urban driving, which made me fall in love with both the e-up! and the concept of what an electric car might be in the future. Taking it into the city was fun, although I had to pause motoring down a high street waiting for a flock of pigeons to move, clearly unaware of the silent electric beast that was waiting to pass.
On day 5 I ventured out West Yorkshire on a drive to Harrogate – a 24 mile round trip. The car had plenty of charge but you’ll find that the range can jump down (and crawl up with the self charging / Eco options) significantly which you do get used to. As a lover of cars, I found myself driving differently, well within the speed limits on straight, open roads to conserve battery life. All round, a positive thing to be doing.