Gid E-Up? Vulture's claw presses pedal to metal on VW's 'leccy motor
Starts with a jolt
Drive, price and value
There are two economy profiles: "Eco" and "Eco+". The range can be varied via three different driving style profiles: the standard mode which is automatically on, "Eco" and "Eco+".
Reins in speed, torque and air-con.
Eco mode drops the maximum power to 50kW, reduces the output of the air-conditioning system and modifies the response curve of the accelerator pedal. In Eco+ the electronics limit maximum power output to 40kW, further tames the performance response curve – reducing pull-away torque – and disables the air conditioning. In the "Eco" and "Eco+" modes, the top speed is drops to 71mph and 56mph (114kmph and 90kmph) respectively. There seemed to be a difference in how the modes affected the air-con: if it was already on when you selected Eco+, it stayed on, but if air-con was off and then you switched to Eco+ you couldn’t then switch the air-conditioning on.
The little VW supports five different flavours of regenerative braking all accessed through the gear lever: D, D1, D2, D3 and B. In D, the generator only harnesses power when you brake. In the others there is increasing regeneration when you are slowing. At levels D2, D3 and B, the deceleration via regenerative braking is so strong the brake lights automatically come on. Driving down the steep hill of Alexandra Place in D3, the retardation was so great I had to accelerate to overcome it. If the battery is fully charged, no regenerative braking occurs.
But regenerative only gets you so far until you need to plug the e-Up in. The simplest option is to plug the mains charging cable supplied with the car into a conventional 230-volt socket. The battery is then charged from the mains at a power level of 2.3 kW. If completely flat, it is fully recharged in this way within around nine hours. You can also get a wall box. British Gas will fit one for free. At 3.6 kW, a completely flat battery can be 100 per cent recharged in six hours. The e-Up has a port for the combined charging system (CCS) using a DC power supply, which – if there were any - charges the car to 80 per cent in 30 minutes.
The detailed range display is built into the mapping system showing you where you can get to with the current state of charge and usage. It also has Source London and other charging points as points of interest with the ability to add your own.
The rear passengers get to share a cupholder
The display has some neat graphics showing power flow and an e-manager which, as in the Leaf and Tesla S, lets you program the charge start time and set the heating or cooling while the car is still sucking juice from the mains so that it doesn’t have to use battery power once you leave. You can set this for up to 30 minutes when plugged in and 10 minutes when not connected. This can all be controlled from an iPhone or Android app. The online service is however chargeable, with the three years included.
The biggest concern is the battery life, so while the car gets a two-year warranty, the battery is guaranteed for eight years or 100,000 miles (161,000km).
The thing about electric cars however is that when someone says “What’ll it do, mister?”, they don’t mean top speed. It’s all about range. VW claims 93 miles (150km) between charges, which in use seemed to be realistic, but there is a difference between believing the figures when you still have a spare 30 or 40 miles and relying on them to do a journey of 60 miles.
It may be something where your confidence grows with experience, especially since the display gives detailed breakdowns of consumption and distance in kW. You need to be technically savvy and interested but all the information is there. However in a week with E1 UPP I wasn’t prepared to chance a round trip of 50 miles from North London to Luton airport.
One of the surprising things about the e-Up is that it’s a Volkswagen and not an Audi. VAG, or Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, includes everything from Skoda to Bugatti. The group usually tries things out on Audi – the experimental brand. Audi was the first with all aluminium on the A2, the DSG gearbox on the TT and most significantly performance four-wheel drive with the Ur-Quattro. That the first electric car should be wearing a VW badge is a departure.
As ever, the maths has to come into play when you make that purchase decision. There is the all-but-free fuel, given that petrol is so horrendously taxed. There is the £5,000 the government will give you for buying one, not paying the congestion charge and there is the spotty free parking.
But the only bit that really matters is the 0 per cent benefit in kind. If you pay tax at 40 or 45 per cent, then having this as a company car is only marginally more expensive than a petrol-engined version. You have to accept that deprecation will be savage, although that eight-year battery warranty will help. At under £20k it’s good value for an electric car, but not for a small car. ®