I’m coming up on six months with my two new e-Golfs, purchased from Santa Monica Volkswagen. That’s in California. Together both cars have about 6,000. That’s more than my mom and I usually drive, but since buying these cars we’ve both changed our driving habits, but we’re still saving money.
Deciding to get the car
I had thought about getting an e-Golf ever since the first gen came out in 2015. Back then I just wanted to get one, and it would be for my mom. Her commute was, and still is, only two miles from our house. She was driving our 2012 Golf TDI, and it was eating me inside. Quick trips in diesels are not good. First off, the fluids will never get up to operating temperature in only two miles. Second, it’s a manual, so that’s more shifting on an expensive clutch and flywheel (it’s a dual mass flywheel which costs me $600, last time I checked). It also means more fuel getting into the oil, which is also not good. So because I like to spend my mom’s money, I looked at an e-Golf. I believe they were the same price back then as they are now, around $32,000 before any incentives. But, the issue was it only had a range of roughly 85 miles, and the base (read: lease special) only had a 3.6 kW onboard charger. Compare this to the current car which has a 125 miles of stated range, and a standard 7.2 kW onboard charger, and mine came with the DC Fast CCS charger for free*. So, due to those shortcomings with the first gen I just couldn’t see myself spending my mom’s money on such a narrow use case. So we waited.
*Nothing in life is free. The CCS plug is advertised as a $1,000 add-on, but I think that most dealers in SoCal are just ordering them with the CCS because it makes it more attractive, and they’re right.
For the next several years I started commuting to work almost exclusively on Metrolink. While my commute is currently only twenty-four miles total, my car, a 2000 Mercedes C230, gets shit mileage. A good tank is sixteen miles per gallon. Metrolink, on the other hand, was $5 round trip because I get the disabled rate. And I also did it to get the exercise, which I really need, and still do. But then, thirteen months ago almost to the day, I had my hip replaced. The recovery was a long are arduous process, and it meant I couldn’t get back on my bike for a very long time, so I had to drive. But then I started going to law school at night, so even though I was able to get back on my bike, I couldn’t take the train because I wouldn’t make it to class. So I was driving five days a week in Mercedes, spending several hundred dollars on gas alone each month. Around January I got tired of it, and I started looking at the e-Golf. The new model, which I think came out in 2017, had a bigger battery (35.8 kWh vs 24.2 kWh), a faster onboard charger, and the CCS plug available on even the base model. And at the time I was looking VW was running a lease special of $279 a month, but as with all lease “specials,” you have to put a shit ton of money down at signing to walk away with that monthly payment. But, I did some rough maths and figured I could afford my first car payment. I also applied for the lease special and I qualified And with the TDI settlement basically done, and my mom has pretty much paid off the TDI, she was in an even better position to get a second car. So I started making some emails.
Now, when I started sending out emails I thought I knew everything I needed to know about leases. My first mistake was thinking sales tax is added to the cost of the car just like a purchase. Nope. Apparently you pay sales tax on the monthly payment. I think I made a few other mistakes, but I think I was more prepared and better informed than your average car buyer or lessee. But I looked around at VW dealerships and sent some emails. I didn’t even bother emailing my local dealer where I bought my TDI, mainly because they’re dicks. But I emailed the only other dealer in my county. Then I emailed Galpin and Santa Monica. Now, I had emailed Galpin and Santa Monica several years prior but told them I was going to wait. Back then Galpin was semi-helpful, but Santa Monica was great, and the woman I talked to, Jet, was not pushy at all. I still had her email so I specifically contacted her and told her I was ready to start wheeling and dealing. The local VW dealer completely ignored what I said in my email. I specifically said I could not, and would not be going into the dealer until a deal was done and I would be taking delivery. Jet was cool with this, and Galpin was too. So I got the first numbers back from Jet and there was some sticker shock, and it was because I didn’t know much about leases. I had told them I would walk in that day if they could do $280 a month with $2,000 down. I thought this would be a good starting point. Jet told me they just couldn’t come close. So I asked for the numbers they could do, and she obliged. So I took those numbers and looked at a few other dealers and contacted a Valencia VW dealer. I talked to a sales manager there who was super cool. He had no problem with doing a mobile deal. He sent me his figures which were way higher than Santa Monica. I was upfront with him and told him what they sent me, and he said there was no way they could match that, mainly because they didn’t have what I wanted in stock so they’d have to do a trade, and they can’t make as good of a deal on a trade. He was also upfront and told me if the Santa Monica numbers were “buy” numbers and not “sell” numbers then I need to go sign the papers today. I told him I didn’t know what he meant by that. He then explained “buy” numbers are the true numbers that will be on the contract, and it will be the actual monthly payment. Whereas “sell” numbers are basically BS numbers which are only given to get you into the dealer. That was cool to learn. And also sad they have an actual term for that.
So, I took that information and talked to my mom. Since she’s much more mature than me, she was more cautious about leasing a $32,000 car. She also hates the idea of a lease. But I explained to her the only way to get the $7,500 federal tax credit is to lease. And I chose $2,000 down since we’d get that back from the state, but it wasn’t a sure thing, so it was a number both of us could afford. I talked her into it so we drove down to Santa Monica on a Saturday and when we got there the numbers I had gotten emailed, and ones I was believing was too good to be true actually ended up being real, and I was shocked. I was also stoked. And while we were waiting for Jet to finish with another customer my mom took the opportunity to drive the car. I figured it was a good idea since she hadn’t driven it before. But I still chuckle at the fact that both of us decided to get a new car that neither of us had actually driven. That’s how much we both like VW’s and German cars. So we went through the process, and we were out of there having done all of the paperwork on both cars in about an hour. That’s a testament to how great Santa Monica VW is. We told them we had a slight time crunch, and they made sure to get us out of there. And they were also very accommodating to my requests. I asked them not to wash or prep either car. They had unfortunately already done my car, but not my mom’s. Jet said it wasn’t a problem, as I think she thought I didn’t want it done due to time constraints. I assured her it wasn’t a problem, and I was actually excited to be the first one to touch the paint.
The actual car review
For those of you that have actually stuck with me so far, congratulations. And now for your reward, I’ll talk about the actual car.
The nitty gritty details
The 2017 e-Golf SE is based on the MKVII MQB platform with mild alterations to make it a BEV. Noticeable differences on the outside are the front and rear fascias, and the wheels. That’s it. The e-Golf has a distinctive front bumper with prominent LED running lights. The front grill has a blue stripe, but unlike the GTI it does not continue that stripe into the headlights. Boo. The rear bumper is also different since there are no tailpipes, but they were kind of dumb and made little cutouts/recesses in the plastic trim portion to make it seem like they were exhaust holes. Why they did, I have no idea. The wheels are 16” aerodynamic wheels with 205/55R16 tires. The 2017 came standard with Bridgestone ECOPIA EP422 PLUS. More on those in a minute. Platform/Chassis wise the only differences I can find is that the e-Golf has a different floor pan compared to a regular MKVII. This makes me very sad because the difference is the front seats are raised, and it drives me NUTS. I like to keep the seat pretty low, and I always feel like I’m sitting too high. Other than that it all looks like a normal MKVII to me. It appears to have the same rear subframe, so that means IRS in the back. Which leads me to the next section.
It’s a Golf, so that means it handles wonderfully, even with the shitty shit tires. The car is planted and eats up miles on the freeway like any true German car should, and carves up corners when called upon. It’s well-damped like a true German car too, but the big sidewall tires add an extra layer of comphy to the mix. The biggest difference between this and GTI are the tires. The tires are the most ungrippy tires I’ve had the displeasure of driving. They’re noisy, and they’re flat out dangerous in the wet. Getting off the freeway in the rain one time, the car basically jumped a lane. I had the shit scared out of me. And in the rain, you can’t accelerate. That’s because in dry weather they don’t grip for shit either. This is not very good in an electric car with 214 ft-lbs of torque from zero RPM. If you even think of accelerating, even in the dry, the tires spin. And they HOWL. I thought Michelins were loud. Well compared to the stock Bridgestones they’re felt lined tires. And I wasn’t kidding about them being even worse in the wet. Pulling out at junctions is the most nerve-racking thing with this car on the stock tires. My mom felt the same way, so we bought new tires.
That’s right. Several thousand miles ago we went to America’s Tire and ordered eight Michelin Energy Saver tires. And they’re actually the VW SKU, so these were the tires VW was using with the original e-Golf. And after driving on them, I have no idea why they changed them. Sure, they only have a 50,000-mile tread life warranty, which isn’t great in general, but it will be worse on these cars. Based on the wear I experienced on the Bridgestones, I extrapolated that they would only last me 10,000 miles. In 2,000 miles I lost 3/32nds of tread on the fronts on my car. So I’m not very hopeful for the Michelins, but I don’t care. They’re quiet, they grip WAYYY more, and they’re safe in the rain.
Charging and range
Now, the most important part of a BEV. As I said, this car comes with a 7.2 kW onboard charger, and both my cars came with the CCS charger. What that means in practical use is about 29-32 hours to charge from dead on a regular 110V outlet using the provided Level 1 charger, 5 hours or so at 15 kW, and 80% charge using the CCS in about 30 minutes. It took me a while to find before, and now I can’t remember exactly, but I think the max charge rate for an e-Golf is 40 kW. The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, takes 50kW.
Now that I’ve had the car for six months I’ve tested each charging method thoroughly, including taking a 400 mile round trip to San Diego to test the range and fast charging.
The most common type of charging you’ll do with a BEV is Level 2 charging. Level 2 is a 240V circuit, but in reality, most circuits are around 208V. But BEV chargers are also rated by kW. ChargePoint, one of the biggest EV charging vendors, they use stations with two plugs per station, each that put out 6.6kW. But the charger I use to charge both cars can do up to 15kW. This is a design choice. You see, you can only draw so much power from one circuit, and ChargePoint chose to always split the power, which makes sense, and then it doesn’t. The benefit of this is that you can’t get pissed off if you get to a station with both plugs free, plug in your car, and immediately get the full potential out of the circuit, so you then make plans based off the estimated time to charge. But then someone else pulls up and uses the other plug and immediately doubles your charge time. So by limiting each plug all of the time, you always know how long it will take. The charger I use, on the other hand, isn’t a publicly available charger, so if only one plug is being used, then that plug gets the max potential. DC Fast charging doesn’t do this, though, and you’re limited to one car per station. I generally use EVGo stations because they’re 50kW stations, vs ChargePoint’s which is only 24kW. And most DC stations charge by time, so the slower the charge the more it ends up costing. EVGo stations all have a CCS plug and a CHAdeMO plug, which I believe is only found on the Leaf.
So shortly after I got the car I decided to use it to take it down to San Diego. Because it was 190 miles one way, and I only have 125 miles of range, it took some planning. I was going down there by myself, and coming back with my mom. Since I wouldn’t be able to easily or safely look up chargers midway, I had to plan out my stops. I was conservative in my estimates since I had never gone more than 50 miles one way, so I planned stops at 80 miles in, and then added a second charge after another 80 miles. My first stop only took me about twenty minutes because I had way more range than I thought. But it was the opposite once I got into San Diego. I wanted to charge the car almost fully because there were easily accessible chargers where I was going, so that charge took me 45 minutes. But on the way home I had much better luck. I stopped 80 miles into the trip, my mom I had dinner, which took us about 45 minutes, and the car was fully charged, and we made it home without another stop and 20 miles of range. I was so excited. It was so cool to be able to drive a car with only 125 miles of range all the way down to San Diego, and it wasn’t an inconvenience.
I don’t have any, but it’s also why I didn’t get the first gen e-Golf with only 85 miles of range. I was actually talking to an owner of a first gen e-Golf, and he also has a TDI, and he said he had some butt puckering moments. He said he came down The Grade one time with one or two miles of range. The closest I’ve ever gotten was 20 miles, and I was five miles from my house. But I do eventually want to test the “fuel” gauge, as I’ve only ever gotten to the beginning of the red zone. I actually get more range anxiety in my TDI because when it drops into low fuel, it drops like a stone, and you can fuck some shit up in a diesel if you run it dry. While I know you can potentially screw up a BEV if you run it dry, I just haven’t gotten that close. Even when I was taking it down to San Diego, I was never anxious because I knew their tons of fast chargers everywhere, and even more Level 2 chargers. But this leads me to my next section.
I think I’ve already talked about how I did research before I got the cars. If I haven’t, well, I did. I learned a ton of how to charge it, where to charge, how long it takes to charge it, even how much it costs. However, I did leave one thing to chance. Between my mom and I, we have somewhere where we can charge our car. I won’t say who for reasons. But, I did make sure that the charger was compatible. That was my first learning experience: the different plugs, and charging rates. But I didn’t know how much the charger was. So I looked at other methods, including giving Edison more of our money. But back to public charging. Being in California, I’m sure you can imagine there are a lot of chargers here, and you’d be right. I’m pretty sure there are more EV stations in San Francisco then there are gas stations. In the pictures below you’ll see how many there are. The numbers in the circle represent how many charging ports there are. You can see one small area has over 400. The second picture is just CCS plugs, aka the Fast Charger for anything that isn’t Nissan or Tesla. But it gets better: most municipalities actually subsidize public charging. The city I live in only charges $1 to charge your car. The county, however, charges $2.40 an hour. That’s rather high. When I go to Burbank to see movies in Dolby Cinema I use chargers provided by Burbank Power and they have peak and non peak pricing, and non-peak, when I usually go, it’s 18¢ a kWh. I pay 25¢ at home.
Driving an electric car is a life-changing experience, but only if you let it. I love it because it introduces some variety to my life. The TDI is a manual, the Mercedes an automatic, and e-Golf relaxing. One of the biggest differences with driving a BEV is the regenerative braking. VW chose to allow regenerative braking both through the throttle pedal, and the brakes. Tesla, on the other hand, they only do it through the throttle, and they have conventional brakes. There are four different levels of regenerative braking. The first setting is D1, which actually shuts off regenerative braking through the throttle. In D1, when you lift off, you just coast, and you only get regen when you step on the brake pedal. D2 and D3 progressively increase the braking. And then there’s B, and I have no idea what it stands for, that offers the most amount of regen as soon as you lift off the throttle. And when in D2, D3, or B, the brakes lights automatically come on. And even if you’re in a regen mode, the brakes will always apply regen braking when available. Driving like this changed how you drive, and it’s quite weird to get into a regular car. I always thought my TDI had a crap ton of engine braking, but compared to e-Golf it’s like I’m in neutral when I lift off the throttle. But having regen braking available through the pedal makes traffic less stressful since you can immediately brake just by lifting your foot off the pedal. And you can better modulate your speed by just adjusting the pressure of your foot. This is absolutely great for today’s shitty traffic everywhere.
The e-Golf has 134hp and 214 ft-lbs of torque, and it gets to 60 in about 9.1 seconds. It also limited to around 93 mph. It does not feel slow, though. Being electric it shoots off the line and will beat most cars right off the line. It’s SOO much fun. The only time you feel any deficit in power is getting onto the freeway at speed. At that point, it feels slightly slower than the TDI and slightly slower than my Mercedes.
The e-Golf has three driving modes, Normal Eco, and Eco+. My mom uses Eco all of the time, and I do too. Shocking, I know. The nice thing about Eco is it dulls the throttle ever so slightly, so you don’t chirp the tires nearly as much. It allows you to drive like a sane person, and it saves you quite a bit of range. It also limits you to 75 mph. This is another nice thing since I find myself speeding more in my e-Golf than I do my other car due to the fact that it’s silent and there are no gears. I also really like Eco mode when it’s raining since even 75 mph is stupid in the rain in Southern California. And then Eco+. I never use it. It scares the crap out of me. Eco+ should be called “priority re-exam.” It’s so damn slow to accelerate it’s scary. It limits you to 65 mph, which can be dangerous. And it cuts off the AC. I don’t care how low my range is, I will never give up my AC.
The e-Golf got an upgraded infotainment system for 2017, and it now comes standard with 8” touchscreen display and is compatible with Android Auto, MirrorLink, and that other thing. VW was smart and got rid of their proprietary plug and went to a regular USB plug. Whereas with the MKVI MDI and aux input were in the armrest, VW moved it to the center console. I’m torn over this decision. The cup holder area is much nicer now, with a cover available. And because the e-Golf comes standard with keyless entry, there’s a little cubby thingy next to the cup holders for your key. The e-Golf gets a unique instrument cluster. In place of the tach, there is a power meter. The numbers to the right represent the amount of power being used, and the blue area is the efficient area. Remember, blue = green in Germany. And the green area is the amount of regenerative braking currently in effect. And the gauge on the bottom on that side is available power on tap. As you accelerate at 100% for a prolonged period of time that metre drops. I’ve never had it drop very far. And on the right is the speedo and the charge indicator. It even has a little charging plug indicator. How cute.
The rest of the interior is pure Golf quality. I am continually amazed at nice the interior of the Golf is. I smog a lot of newer Audis at work, and the only interiors I’ve ever found to be nicer is in the A8.
The SE does come with cloth seats, but they’re very nice. And the trunk still has a false floor, although not quite deep enough for a spare.
Remote Features - CarNet
I think VW came out with their mobile features a few years ago, but I’m not sure. All I know is that it comes standard on my car, and best of all, the mobile functions are free for three years. Normally you get three months and then it’s $18 a month. The features I have include setting the climate control, locking and unlocking, flashing the lights, and turning the charger off and on when it’s plugged in. When it’s plugged in the remote HVAC features are even better since the car pulls power from the grid. Just the other day when I had it plugged in at work I started the AC about ten minutes before I left, and there was a noticeable difference in the fan speed. The remote HVAC functions are also limited when it’s not plugged in. I think when it’s unplugged it’s limited to ten or fifteen minutes, but when it’s plugged in it runs for twice that amount. It’s so nice getting into a cooled car at the end of the day, or when it actually gets “cold” here, getting into a warm car in the morning.
Besides the cabin air filter, coolant for the inverter, brake fluid, differential fluid, and your various mechanical bits including brakes and suspension components, there’s nothing to service. This was a deciding factor when getting a BEV. It costs me upwards of $100 in parts and fluids to service either my Mercedes or TDI, and I service them on a regular basis. And when you add in the cost of fuel, you can see why I chose to get BEVs. In the 6,000 miles, we’ve driven the cars, I’ve spent $83.90 on charging the cars. Had I kept driving my Mercedes that would have cost me over $900 in gas at today’s price of $3.52 assuming 15 mpg. And for my mom’s car it would have cost me another $270 in today’s price for diesel of $3.79 and figuring 30mpg, which is best case scenario for the short trips her and I take in it. But, I still have a car payment, so I’m actually still spending more a month with the new car. But my mom sure as hell has. She wasn’t paying for fuel before anyways, that’s my job since I live at home for free, and because of that, she’s filled her car up a grand total of two times. But both of put a ton of weight and stock in being happy, and having nice things. And spending $300 a month on a brand new car is well worth it.
Also, we both have access to free charging, so I’m cheating. But, if I didn’t, and I had to charge at home, I figured it would have cost me about $419 assuming 25 cents a kWh.
And finally, why VW’s are the best.
Two words, or maybe it’s one. I don’t know. But that answer is Ross-tech! With the right tools, and now with the ability to read German (okay, use Google Translate, I didn’t pay attention in German class), you can change so many things with long coding, and even adaptations. Once I acquired three VW’s, I finally got the latest Ross-Tech Hexnet dongle, which was around $600, and I started changing things. So far I’ve changed the comfort blinks (tap the turn signal and it goes off three times) from three to five blinks. I’ve also programmed the passenger mirror to dip in reverse. I changed a few other things, and my current goal is to change the turn signals in the rear from red to amber. I HATE red turn signals. They’re the work of the devil. But I’d rather not spend a thousand dollars and have to change the tail lights.
And I think that about covers it. Hopefully, I didn’t miss much, but if you have any questions please let me know. This post will be re-broadcast later today for those who care to read it.