The all-electric Volkswagen e-up! goes on sale on today, Monday 2 December priced at £19,250 (including £5,000 Government grant or £24,250 on the road). Customers will be able to order their e-up! from one of 24 Volkswagen EV specialist retailers across the UK, with the first deliveries expected at the end of January.
However, priced at just short of £20,000 after the UK Government grant of £5,000 the e-up! is far more expensive than rivals Nissan LEAF and Renault ZOE. Considering the car is a derivation of the ordinary VW up!, it is slightly surprising that Volkswagen have priced their new electric car so high. For an extra £5,000 electric car buyers would be able to buy the purpose built carbon fibre and aluminium BMW i3 which, on paper, is a far more sensible purchase despite the £5000 additional costs. Likewise, Renault’s ZOE – even with it’s battery rental scheme – is a much more sensible offering with prices starting a little under £14,000 after government grant meaning a near £6,000 in pocket can be spent on the battery rental which varies but is no more than £113 per month at it’s most expensive and most unlikely option.
What do you get for your money? With, a range of up to 93 miles in optimum conditions, and a standard full charge taking less than nine hours from a standard 230-Volt, 2.3 kW household socket, the five-door e-up! is no more practical than its rivals despite the extra cost and it is no faster either.
The e-up!’s AC electric motor produces 60 kW / 82 PS and 210 Nm of torque. The lithium-ion battery is rated at 374 Volts and 18.7 kWh. As well as a standard driving mode, the e-up! has two economy profiles as standard: ‘Eco’ and ‘Eco+’. ‘Eco’ cuts the vehicle’s peak power to 50 kW, reduces the output of the air conditioning system and modifies the throttle response. ‘Eco+’ limits maximum power to 40 kW, further modifies the throttle response and disables the air conditioning altogether.
One nice feature is that on top of these different operating modes, the range of the e-up! can be greatly influenced by regenerative braking. There are five modes available (something which is sadly missing from the more expensive BMW i3): D, D1, D2, D3 and B.
In D, the vehicle coasts when the accelerator is lifted. In each of the next levels, lifting off the throttle pedal provides an increased level of regenerative braking. As a nice touch making for safer driving, in D2, D3 and B modes, the brake lights are automatically activated when the driver’s foot is lifted from the throttle pedal. This is a small but well thought out addition since it has been claimed in many electric cars that they may be driven only with the ‘right foot’, implying that regenerative braking can be set to feel like the brakes have been applied and often bringing the car to a complete stop without ever touching the brake pedal itself. While that is excellent for wear and tear on the brake system as well as great news for regeneration and therefore possibly electric driving range, it does mean that drivers behind may find it frustrating that no brake lights are seen despite a vehicle slowing down at a considerable rate in front of them.
In the UK e-up! customers will be offered an optional wall box for home garage use. This provides a 3.6 kW supply and can recharge a completely flat battery in six hours. On top of this, all e-up!s have a DC fast-charging circuit as standard. Using the Combined Charging System (CCS), this enables a flat battery to be charged to 80 per cent in 30 minutes, at levels of up to 40 kW using a DC supply. Fortunately, cables are provided to connect to both a standard UK three-pin socket and a CCS socket.
Where conditions permit, the e-up! can achieve a top speed of 81 mph; while it can easily keep up with urban and suburban traffic, thanks to a zero to 37 mph time of 4.9 seconds, and a zero to 62 mph time of 12.4 seconds. This compares well to acceleration times for competing electric cars though is much slower than the BMW i3. However, around town the car should prove zippy enough with near-instant torque making the car feel much faster than it is.
Externally, the e-up! can be identified by badges on the front wings and bootlid, as well as by distinctive C-shaped LED daytime running lights, and 15-inch ‘Tezzle’ alloy wheels. Inside, the bespoke upholstery is edged in blue, while the leather-covered steering wheel, gearlever and handbrake all have blue stitching.
Volkswagen have tried to justify the high asking price by adding in extra toys over the petrol-powered up! models. On top of the standard specification of the range-topping petrol-powered High up! model, which includes luxuries such as heated front seats, cruise control and the Maps and More navigation system, the e-up! adds a heated windscreen, DAB digital radio with six-speaker Sound Pack, City Emergency Braking system, rear parking sensors and an electronic climate control system. As well as the standard Bluetooth connectivity and navigation functions of the petrol-powered up!’s Maps and More device, the e-up!’s unit includes charging point location details, range mapping (both one-way and round-trip) and vehicle charging management functions, including the ability to pre-set the vehicle’s interior heating or cooling for certain times.
Certain vehicle functions can also be operated remotely using Volkswagen’s Car Net services on an Apple iPhone or Android mobile device. The e-up! comes with a three-year Car Net subscription that allows users to control or get information on charging status, battery management, doors and lighting, driving data, climate control and the location of the vehicle.
The e-up! comes with a standard three-year warranty, with the option to extend this by one or two years. The vehicle’s battery comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty, while the standard service interval is 10,000 miles or one year, whichever comes soonest.
The e-up! is available to order today from 2 December, with first deliveries expected at the end of January 2014.
As to whether Volkswagen have overpriced the e-up! or not is most likely the case. With established rivals like the Nissan LEAF and Renault ZOE both being cheaper alternatives but offering similar levels of trim, refinement, range and speed, the Volkswagen will likely only be purchased by die-hard VW fans or those wanting a more conventional looking car over it’s immediate rivals. Furthermore, with most purchasers of electric cars opting for them for many reasons other than their price, will potential buyers be more persuaded to go for BMW’s i3 at £5,000 more than the e-up! to get a purpose built electric car featuring construction from expensive aluminium and carbon fibre? It is likely that, just as with the Ford Focus electric lowly sales predications of just 30 cars in the first year, Volkswagen won’t be anticipating their e-up! to be flying out of showrooms on the same level as their excellent Golf range!