New Car Reviews

Quick Take: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

Attractive EV will save you money at the pump, but its still not worth the hassle

SAN PEDRO, California If you have never owned an electric vehicle and normally drive more than 100 miles on weekends, an EV with a limited range can put you in a stressful situation. Case in point: the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium.

Choosing to live dangerously, I volunteered to spend a weekend with an electric vehicle—a challenge I had purposefully deflected every time an EV has shown up in our fleet. That said, I have actually driven other EVs including the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and Fiat 500e, but never for an entire weekend.

Prior to departing our office in El Segundo, I plugged the e-Golf to a 240-volt level 2 charger at a nearby ChargePoint station to prepare for the voyage ahead.

By the time I made a run for the door, 3.14 hours of charging time cost $5.68 and added 65 miles, giving a grand total of 118 miles of range—a few ticks away from a full charge. The updated lithium-battery on the latest e-Golf has a capacity of 35.8 kWh with an EPA-estimated range of 125 miles—a significant improvement from its previous 83-mile range.

Fellow associate and Volkswagen aficionado Billy Rehbock recommended that I drive the e-Golf just like a regular Golf and definitely in B mode of its regenerative braking system. (The ins and outs of regenerative braking were unfamiliar to me and this video tutorial helped me understand how it works.)

When B mode of regenerative braking is engaged, minimal use of the brake pedal is required to bring the e-Golf to a complete stop. The benefit of using B mode is that the motor generates energy and in return increases the range­—given that the battery is not fully charged. My beginner level of driving an EV prompted me to use intuition and some common sense to conserve as much energy as possible. This led to driving in Eco Mode with the highest level of regenerative braking (B mode) and frugal use of the A/C.

My commute is approximately 17.5 miles, with 12 of those are on the freeway. On surface streets, the range stretched the miles, convincing me that owning an EV could be a viable choice. Unfortunately, that was not the case on the freeway where the range depleted at a greater rate. Since I live in an apartment with street parking only, charging the e-Golf at home was not an option. I also factored in that there were no ChargePoint stations within walking distance from my apartment in San Pedro, which put me into panic mode.

The real experience of living with an EV began when I did errands, made a coffee run, and visited family in Orange County. One way to my aunt’s house in Orange County is approximately 30 miles from my apartment. In an effort to be efficient with the range, I made some calculated moves to get there. I avoided the 405 Freeway and instead took the Pacific Coast Highway route, drove in ECO Mode, turned off the A/C, and rolled all the windows down a notch. When I arrived to my aunt’s house, the range was slightly below 60 miles.

Though it likely did not require an immediate charge, I made a detour to a nearby ChargePoint station on my way home. Sitting in the driver seat while an EV is charging has to be one of the most boring experiences ever. I am certainly not addicted to my smartphone and I made the mistake of not bringing a book along for the ride. After sitting in the car and going for a brief walk around the parking garage the station was located in, I could no longer contain myself. My patience lasted 1.53 hours, giving me a 39-mile charge from the 28 kWh of electricity that cost $2.79.

By mid-day Sunday, the e-Golf was down to 35 miles of range and it was one of the hottest weekends in Los Angeles. The only ChargePoint stations showing up on the map in Torrance were either at a Walgreens or in some remote location. How could I possibly sit inside the car for any amount of time with the sun’s wrath intensifying? Browse the aisles inside Walgreens? Go for a three hour walk in L.A.? Yeah right.

The desperate search for a ChargePoint station that was not located at a Walgreens took me to a station at a park within walking distance of a Starbucks. In preparation to sit at a Starbucks for three hours while the e-Golf charged I stopped at Subway for a to-go sandwich. As I approached the register to pay, another customer intervened and offered to pay for my Spicy Italian sub. He may have noticed the mental strain hiding underneath my sunglasses or maybe he was impressed with my order.

The screen grab on the left shows the available ChargePoint stations near San Pedro. On the right is the cost of charging the Volkswagen e-Golf over the weekend.

Sitting inside the air-conditioned Starbucks for three hours was not bad at all. I was able to enjoy my delicious peppermint flavored iced coffee and this time I brought a laptop to edit photos. It was a win-win situation but after a 71-mile charge, I surrendered and went straight home.

When I returned to the office on Monday morning I had clocked in a total of 161.5 miles on the e-Golf and I could not be happier to turn the key in and never look back.

Over the course of a weekend I spent $14 for 52 kWh of battery life equating to 175 miles. This clearly proved that charging an electric vehicle is way cheaper than paying for fuel. Nonetheless, driving the e-Golf showed me that what an EV can save you at the gas pump is not worth the hassle of charging it. I rather pay the extra costs for fuel any day and steer clear of losing time to a charging station. Even if I could charge the e-Golf at home I would never want to own an EV—especially one with a limited range.

For what its worth, the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf offers a reasonable range and it is definitely one of the best looking EVs on the market. Still, I cannot imagine going through all the hurdles of driving an EV for a destination beyond 150 miles. Like a New Yorker would say: fuhgeddaboudit!

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $39,240 (as tested)
MOTOR Permanent-magnet synchronous A/C electric motor/134 hp, 214 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION 1-speed direct drive automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-motor, hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 126/111 mpge (city/hwy)
L x W x H 168.1 x 70.8 x 57.2 in
WHEELBASE 103.5 in
WEIGHT 3,455 lb
0-60 MPH 9.6 sec
TOP SPEED 85 mph

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