The temperature outside is zero degrees. It is still rather dark; in early December, the sun does not rise in Oslo until just before 9 o’clock. Nevertheless, Dr. Florian Hofemeier is wide awake and in good spirits early in the morning. The young engineer, who is responsible for the energy management systems of Volkswagen electric vehicles, takes his place behind the wheel of a new e-Golf. The car welcomes driver and passenger into its warm and cozy interior. “I’ve already heated up the cabin”, Hofemeier explains. He programmed the electric auxiliary heater the night before using an app. “By the way, this is one of the most important features of our e-Golf for my wife”, Hofemeier says. But it is not only for her sake that he makes sure the car is comfortable. It is his job to see that Volkswagen electric cars use precious battery power extremely frugally.
Heat management plays a key role. Normally, the range of an electric vehicle is significantly reduced in winter because power is also needed for heating the interior. The e-Golf, on the other hand, uses an efficient heat pump – a miniature version of the technology that already heats many homes. The sophisticated unit even harnesses the waste heat generated by the electric drive system when the vehicle is in motion. “Depending on the outdoor temperature, we can produce up to three kilowatt-hours of heat from one kilowatt-hour of electricity”, Hofemeier is proud to report.
300 kilometers is the nominal range of the new e-Golf, based on the official New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). This is an improvement of more than 100 kilometers, or 50 percent, over its predecessor introduced in 2014. “However, what is much more important is the fact that in terms of annual average, customers can now travel 200 kilometers under real-world conditions despite using the heater or air conditioning system”, Hofemeier explains, moving the shifter of the automatic transmission from P to B. This option means that when the driver takes his foot off the gas, the electric engine brakes sharply, recharging the battery with the energy that is recovered.
“I want to play my part in making sure that individual mobility and climate protection are compatible.”
However, the first-generation e-Golf was already equipped with regenerative braking and a heat pump. So how has the range been boosted by more than 50 percent? The most important factor is that although the number of cells has remained unchanged, battery capacity has been increased from 24.2 to 35.8 kilowatt-hours. “We’ve managed to pack much more active material into the same space”, Hofemeier explains. “Battery technology is currently making great inroads and we are consistently taking advantage of these improvements.” However, more active material also means a heavier vehicle and therefore, potentially, higher energy consumption.
Thanks to other changes in the vehicle, Hofemeier’s team was able to more than compensate for this drawback. For example, the transmission of the new e-Golf features a new, more efficient bearing design and a higher final drive ratio. Normally, this would reduce the starting torque, which gives the e-Golf its powerful acceleration from low speeds. However, as the torque developed by the electric motor has also been boosted – again without changing the motor’s external dimensions – a balance has been retained between driving pleasure and energy consumption. “This is a very important factor for me”, says Hofemeier. “I want to play my part in making sure that individual mobility and climate protection are compatible.”
That is why the engineer is pleased to see so many cars on the roads of Oslo with an “E” license plate indicating that they have an electric drive. The market share of electric cars in Norway is about 15 percent, higher than in any other country. It is even higher for Volkswagen vehicles. The e-Golf accounts for one-third of all new Golf models registered in the country, and the Golf GTE2 with plug-in hybrid drive system for another third. One of the main reasons is that e-mobility has been subsidized by the state in Norway for 15 years. Anyone buying an electric vehicle not only saves value-added tax, which is 25 percent in Norway, but also the car purchase tax, which is based on a vehicle’s power output and emissions. And on top of that, electric vehicles can use toll roads and ferries free of charge. The use of ferries is a convincing argument, especially in the west of the country with its coastline dissected by fjords. In the rush hour in Oslo, electric cars can even use the bus lane if they have at least two occupants.
... charging time: The battery can be charged to 80 percent capacity within an hour at a CCS charging station.
... max. torque: The torque has been boosted to offset the slightly heavier battery for a dynamic driving experience.
... battery capacity: Much more active material has been packed into the same space.
“It drove just like a Golf should, but better.”
For more than 100,000 of five million inhabitants of Norway, driving an electric car has become part of everyday life. Take Magne Bjella, for example, manager for new media at Oslo Opera house and an enthusiastic driver of a first-generation e-Golf. He meets us in the foyer of the opera house; shaped like an iceberg, it dominates the harbor district skyline – a symbol of a country where a tangible sense of optimism has prevailed for several years. Bjella admits: “I actually wanted to buy a conventional Golf. The car really suits me.”
But then the dealer persuaded him to take a test drive in an e-Golf. As Bjella puts it: “It drove just like a Golf should, but better.” Hofemeier listens, smiles, then says: “That’s exactly what an electric car must offer – everyday mobility and driving pleasure.” We continue towards the nearby coast with its picturesque towns and small islands, where many inhabitants of the capital city have weekend homes. As long as there is a road or ferry to the islands, they are within the range of the e-Golf.
1 Volkswagen e-Golf energy consumption in kWh/100 km combined 12.7; CO2 emissions in g/km combined 0. Efficiency class A+.
2 Volkswagen Golf GTE fuel consumption in l/100 km combined from 1.8 to 1.6; energy consumption in kWh/100 km combined from 12.0 to 11.4; CO2 emissions in g/km combined from 40 to 36. Efficiency class A+.
Text first published in the momentum – The Volkswagen Group magazine