Volkswagen launches electric car pilot program

VW E-Golf San Francisco largeFollowing the lead of corporate sibling Audi, Volkswagen is launching an electric vehicle (EV) pilot program in the United States. Cars will be distributed in specific markets and driven over a nine-month period to gather data for future electric Volkswagens.

Like Audi and other companies, VW modified an existing model for its EV pilot program. In this case, it’s the Golf, known to most Americans as the Jetta hatchback. The 20 test cars will be five-door Golfs, with electric powertrains in place of the standard hardware. The E-Golf is powered by an electric motor that makes 199 lb-ft of torque; VW did not say how much horsepower it makes.

The motor gets its energy from a 26.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Volkswagen did not quote an estimated range, but it did say the E-Golf was designed with energy-saving features. These include three different driving modes and regenerative braking, which are standard features on many other electric cars, and hybrids. The E-Golf can also coast when the driver takes their foot off the throttle.

Twelve of the E-Golf test vehicles will be given to Volkswagen employees, the rest will be distributed in Detroit, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. beginning in April. Volkswagen hopes to acquire data on the effects of climate conditions and driving patterns in the different regions.

Volkswagen will also test charging hardware. The 12 employees in the E-Golf program will get 220-volt charging stations installed at their houses. Every E-Golf will come with an iPhone that, through an app, lets drivers check the status of charging, adjust the air conditioning, and remotely charge the car (if it’s plugged-in). “For a successful market launch of electric vehicles, the way that home chargers are handled is very important, along with easy access to public charging infrastructure,” said Dr. Rudolf Krebs, head of Volkswagen Group E-Traction.

Testing EVs is a significant change of course for Volkswagen, whose previous eco-car efforts were focused on diesels. However, VW isn’t the first company to try an EV pilot program. BMW built an electric Mini, the Mini E, and is now testing electric versions of its 1 Series. Honda loaned a few Fit EVs to Google and Stanford University for testing. Audi, which is owned by Volkswagen, is testing its A3 e-tron with a similar pilot program.

So far, no production models have come out of any of these programs. Audi has discussed building an electric sports car along the lines of its e-tron concepts, while Volkswagen is talking about electrifying some existing vehicles. The company said it plans to build an electric version of its Up! city car, and showed the E-Bugster, an electric Beetle, at the Detroit Auto Show. A production version of the E-Golf could compete against Ford’s electric Focus. Will the pilot program result in any of these cars getting built? We’ll know in nine months.

Movies & TV

Disney completes its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox

Now that Walt Disney Company has closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox's movie and television assets, what does this future hold for franchises like X-Men, the Fantastic Four, The Simpsons, and the rest?
Cars

FWD vs. RWD vs. AWD: How the wheels that turn change the way you drive

Let's face it, you've likely heard front-, rear-, and all-wheel drive mentioned before in some context or another. But what do these terms mean, especially in terms of performance? We’ve got the answers.
Mobile

Leaked ZTE concept phones are crazy, possibly fake, and totally worth seeing

Renders of what may be ZTE concept phones may show how the manufacturer could avoid using the notch on future devices. They're crazy -- and maybe not even real -- but they're definitely worth looking at.
Emerging Tech

This very talented robotic leg learned to walk all by itself

Researchers at the University of Southern California have developed a robotic limb capable of walking without preprogrammed knowledge of the task. It’s an impressive feat that could help future robots navigate the world independently.
Cars

Say goodbye to Uber for good: Here's how to cut ties with the ridesharing service

If you thought that deleting the Uber app would also delete your account, think again. You'll have to deactivate your account, then wait 30 days in order to do so. Here, we outlined how to delete your Uber account once and for all.
Cars

Shift it yourself: How to drive stick in a manual transmission car

Driving a manual transmission car might seem intimidating at first, but it's not as difficult as you might think. Knowing how to operate this type of gearbox will serve you well. Here's everything you need to know to learn how to drive…
Product Review

Who needs a Range Rover? BMW’s X7 has better tech and just as much luxury

The 2019 BMW X7 is the German automaker’s long-overdue entry into the full-size luxury SUV segment. Packing three rows of seats and plenty of tech, can the new BMW take on Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover?
Cars

Waymo boosts robo-taxi plans with new service center in Arizona

Waymo has announced plans for a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, that will help to service, maintain, and grow its fleet of autonomous Waymo One cars. The vehicles operate as part of the company's robo-taxi ridesharing service.
Cars

Vivint’s Car Guard keeps tabs on your vehicle when you’re not in it

A simple plug-in that you can place in just about any vehicle, Vivint's new Car Guard will automatically detect if your car is bumped, towed, or stolen and will alert you about it.
Cars

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC coupe gets a tech upgrade, keeps quirky styling

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC coupe debuts at the 2019 New York Auto Show with an upgraded infotainment system that incorporates Mercedes' digital assistant. The SUV launches later this year with turbocharged four-cylinder power.
Cars

This modified Land Rover Discovery is heading to Africa to help fight malaria

A Land Rover Discovery will be used by the Mobile Malaria Project for a 3,900-mile trek across Africa to study malaria. The SUV is equipped with a mobile gene-sequencing laboratory, as well as everything necessary for serious off-roading.
Cars

Volvo wants to use speed limiters, in-car cameras, and data to reduce crashes

Volvo believes new tech is the best way to improve car safety. The Swedish automaker will let owners set speed limits when loaning out their cars, install cameras to monitor drivers, and use data to design better safety features.
Cars

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe teased way ahead of its November debut

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is coming to the United States, eventually. The new compact BMW won't be unveiled until the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The Gran Coupe will be based on a front-wheel drive platform.
Cars

Tesla lets you skip the dealership, order a car from the comfort of your couch

Tesla has always bypassed traditional dealerships, and it has now adopted an online-only sales model that lets customers configure and order their car without leaving their couch. Here's what you need to know.