Volkswagen charges up its new electric car e-Up
The original Volkswagen Up was conceived as the archetypal city car, designed to appeal to drivers from London to Delhi and São Paulo. Clever packaging allows for a relatively roomy cabin with space for four adults despite a tiny footprint - the e-Up! is arguably the century's quintessential urban run-around. And yes, that exclamation mark is officially part of the car's name.
With electrification leading the next chapter in mobility, an e-powered sibling was always on the cards. Rather than follow in the footsteps of BMW, Renault and Nissan - all of whom are creating electric cars from scratch - VW's e-family is based on existing models, citing lower costs and a flexible approach to market trends.
From the outset, the Up was engineered to take an electric motor. The cabin retains its space thanks to the integration of the batteries and additional elements in the vehicle floor. Bar the dials that reveal information about battery life, and the gearshift that is now home to a clever energy recovery system, the e-Up is pretty similar to the standard car.
However, driving it is an entirely different experience. Our test route around central London and along country roads and narrow lanes revealed the benefits and flaws of electric driving. On the one hand it is pleasant gliding along in silence and the e-Up feels swift (even though it does 0-62mph in 12.4 seconds).
The downside is that perpetual bugbear of electric cars: 'range anxiety'. Finding ourselves a little lost, we watched the electric dial drop further and further down the scale. In the end, we resorted to turning off the heating and easing off the accelerator in a bid to save a little battery life. For the city-centric driver, these concerns are likely to melt away once you realise how few miles you actually cover, but anyone needing to go longer distances will have to steel their nerves.
As with all electric cars, battery life depends on how you drive the car. VW's official figures for the e-Up are a range of around 75-103 miles in summer and 50-75 miles in winter. The driver has some degree of intervention through the energy recovery system and the choice of three driving modes - normal, eco and eco plus - that progressively reduce power and electrical systems on-board. A standard plug takes nine hours to fully charge the car from empty, while a supercharger takes only half an hour.
There are huge benefits to owning an electric car. There is the ecological aspect - the electricity can come from renewable sources - and although you will pay a little more for the car, running costs are significantly lower. Plus, the electric drivetrain opens endless possibilities for car design and we are beginning to see some intriguing products. What remains is to get drivers behind the wheels of the new breed of e-cars to experience the sheer joy of electrification.