Launched in Germany last autumn, the pure electric version of the up! city car is now reaching the first 24 UK dealers out of the 208-strong VW network and the battery of dealers will slowly grow, each with a specially trained technician, servicing facilities and customer dedicated e-parking and charging points.
VW anticipate selling about 250 e-up! models in a full year in the UK. Most are likely to be leased on PCP finance/rental schemes as they cost a sparky £24,250 to buy outright but work out, after initial payments including the £5,000 Government grant, at under £200 a month over three years.
Unlike some competitors’ models, the all-electric up price includes the underfloor battery pack so it’s not leased separately and subject to any complicated contracts, a factor which will help the VW city car to achieve stronger residual value.
Engineered in-house by Volkswagen and intended to be developed for other models in the group, the zero-emissions e-powertrain uses a sealed pack of cells weighing 230KG and highly sophisticated motor management and charging system, including remote and pre-programmable services incorporated into the dash-top Maps & More communication device from Garmin.
E-up! is fitted with electric steering and servo-assisted mechanical hydraulic disc & drum brakes, which work in conjunction with the electric motor to retard progress, with specially designed front suspension struts and rear torsion beam to optimise space and weight while giving good ride and handling.
Drivers can pre-programme charging the battery pack and even remotely select the desired cabin temperature before they are ready to set off so using low price off-peak electricity, and once in the car have driving profiles and modes at their fingertips to optimise charging or power demands, but snappy acceleration or hard braking overcomes the settings for safety reasons.
Only five-door up models will be sold in the e-range and they come with the high trim specification and even utilise the conventional filler point for the two plug in systems and on-board cables suitable for conventional or higher capacity charging at home, office, motorway services or retail outlets.
Charging takes about 30mins on high output to achieve 80% capacity and up to 9hrs on a conventional socket and Volkswagen has negotiated a cheap-charging deal with a major supplier if you have to pay while on a journey, although some suppliers offer free power points.
To all intents and purposes the e-up! looks like an automatic version of the up! 1.0-litre petrol powered city car. It starts with a key and you select drive beside the lever on the console and away you go.
You can push buttons ahead of the lever for Eco or Eco+ profiles to optimise the charge and reduce unwanted power sapping systems or settings which can also limit power output and maximum speed, but in an emergency they are instantly overcome by stabbing the throttle or footbrake as necessary.
Moving the lever to the left in three stages gradually increases the electric motor’s retardation effect and minimises conventional footbrake application and in the Level 3 setting you effectively drive the car only on the throttle, so strong is the in-built deceleration of the system. There is also an additional city-mode B setting for very heavy traffic.
A fairly conventional speedometer is flanked by a power indicating charge gauge and a “fuel” gauge showing available volts in the battery pack while readouts indicate remaining range and navigation information as well as alerts about recharging points.
Behind the wheel the e-up! pulls away steadily and silently with no gear changes to feel, steering is smooth, progressive and without retardation-assistance the brakes give good feedback, but become stronger as the assistance levels are increased.
Generally, with so much weight under the floor in the wheelbase, there is virtually no body roll on bends, minimal pitching under brakes or acceleration and with a silent powertrain underfoot the only noise coming into the cabin is from the tyres and road, and some mechanical bump-thump over potholes.
Room inside is uncompromised by the electric powertrain and the bootspace is within a few litres of the conventional up stablemate providing from 250 – 923-litres.
Once you get use to the characteristics of the e-up! it is undemanding, so long as you don’t forget it needs recharging when you get home, unlike a conventional automatic.
MILESTONES: Volkswagen e-up! Price: £24,250.
Mechanical: 60KW/82PS AC motor producing 210Nm/155lbs ft torque with single speed gearbox and front wheel drive harnessed to 374V and 18KWh/ 25Ah battery with 204 cells Performance: Max 81mph, 0-62mph 12.4 seconds. Range (depending on weather and power demand): 75-99 miles. Charging time: 80% charged in 30mins, 6-9 hrs depending on charging input. Insurance group: 10E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles mechanical, 5-years e-components, 8-years/99,360 miles battery.
For: Easy to use, good performance, roomy, good visibility, fairly quiet, no exhaust emissions. Against: Purchase price – it’s over twice as expensive to buy as the top level petrol 5-door up!, range considerations and recharging points, higher insurance group than fossil fuelled stablemates, Robin Roberts Miles Better News Agency