Top speed: 81mph
Maximum range: 99 miles
Over the past few years, the likes of Nissan, Renault and Tesla have pioneered the electric car as a viable alternative to the Ice car. (That’s internal combustion engine, OK!) Now VW has put a toe in the water to test the temperature of consumer demand by launching its own purely electric car. It’s a modified version of the all conquering Up – the supermini which drove off with the World Car of the Year title in 2012. The electrified Up is called the e-Up (said in a Yorkshire accent it sounds even better. Let’s hope the next model is the e-Bah-gum).
Last week I traveled to Volkswagen’s test center in Milton Keynes to have a go in their smart little car. But before I tell you about it, we need to address the elephant in the room – The Price. This titchy car costs a staggering $40500. The standard Up costs $13,806. There is a $8352.50 “incentive” that the government will slip into your pocket if you buy any electric car, but even so you are still talking almost 20 grand (special to the United Kingdom). You’d have to almost $27,000 on fuel before you broke even. The e-Up’s battery is guaranteed for eight years or 99,360 miles, but no one knows what sort of state the battery will even be in by then. Ergo, there is no possible economic case that would justify you splashing out on an e-Up! Which is a real shame as it’s a terrific car. For comfort, economy, practicality and sheer joie de vivre it’s one of the most forward-looking and transformative cars you’ll see on the road.
Right, on with the drive. From the outside, the e-Up is identical to its non-electric sister. The difference is all in the drivetrain. Up front you now find a 81bhp electric motor, while the 230kg battery is cleverly built into the entire floor. This means there is no loss of space – you still have a usable boot and four good-sized seats. The extra weight also gives the car a lower centre of gravity which improves its handling – titchy cars can sometimes feel a bit skittery.
Turn the key and the Up powers up. There’s no sound, of course. Press the throttle and… hey, it drives just like your own car. Despite all its futuristic technology it is so intuitive and so much a member of the VW family that you feel instantly at home. By the time I’d hit the first of Milton Keynes’s millions of roundabouts – about 200 yards – I’d forgotten what was powering me. This chirpy little motor is smooth, unhesitating and effortless. It’s swift, too. You’ll soon be cruising on the motorway with the best of them – just not for very far. And that’s the other but…
After The Price comes The Range. It’s such an issue that it has spawned its own sub-category of anguish: “range anxiety”. The Up has a range of 99 miles. It takes all night to fully charge and that 99 miles will cost you $4.68. Of course range is totally influenced by your driving style. On the open road I floored it and saw the needle shoot into the red faster than a teenager’s bank account…
VW obviously wants its e-Up to be a massive sales hit. It won’t be. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t shift a single unit, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a success. For today’s motorists, worried about the petrol running out, the e-Up is a harbinger of a carbon-free future.
Launch of Auto Trader Magazine
Auto Trader, the UK’s biggest motoring destination, has announced the return of Auto Trader Magazine, re-imagined for the digital era. The new monthly publication is free to download from Apple Newsstand and features original reviews, video and advice to help people find their new car. The digital magazine also offers real-time access to the UK’s biggest classified listings, allowing readers to search seamlessly from the article they are reading. Editor-in-chief, Jon Quirk said: “Today is the result of listening to what our consumers want and countless test-and-learn iterations of our existing digital products, which we will continue to evolve. We know that consumers use Auto Trader for research in their buying and selling journey’s and it’s incredibly exciting to be developing original content and concepts for new consumer platforms as we begin to understand how these platforms are used.”
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This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk