In the pre-historic days of electric cars, they used to be goofy and geeky. The exterior designs were totally oddball, and the interiors full of half-baked reminders that you were driving something green. Things have changed. I tested two all-electric cars recently, driving the Volkswagen e-Golf and Hyundai Ionic each for a week. I liked them both.
The e-Golf looks like any other VW Golf you’d see on the road, save for some discrete badging on the body. That’s a huge plus. The other bagful of good news is that is has all the sharp driving characteristics of the Golf brand, except it’s pretty much silent, and you don’t have to put gas in it. Steering, handling, braking, It’s all normal in that good German way. Another breakthrough, the battery doesn’t impinge on passenger space or cargo room, it’s roomy and as useful for hauling stuff as the regular Golf. The base price of the e-Golf is about $36,000, factor in a $14,000 government incentive, and you drive away in a finely equipped hatchback.
I picked up the e-Golf in Ajax and the info screen indicated a range of about 225 kilometres. I babied it a bit on the drive to Hamilton, electing not to run the air conditioner, and keeping a speed of about 110 km/h on the highway and by the time I got to Hamilton I still had 109 km of range left. The e-Golf, is rated at 134 horsepower and has copious torque so passing and merging are a breeze. Once in the city I drove in ways to aggressively save power. There are various modes that use the brakes to regenerate energy, and limit other functions that compromise range. The type of driving one usually does in the city could easily be accomplished without range anxiety. Since we don’t have a driveway, I borrowed the neighbors’ space to plug the e-Golf in for charging. Using the standard charger that comes with the vehicle, it took the overnight hours, plugged into regular house power for a full charge. Other options in my part of the city would be to charge it at the parking garage on York Boulevard where there are two spaces, or pop over to McMaster Innovation Park where two Sun Country charging stations are located. The 240 volt system will charge an EV in about six hours.
After the e-Golf, I picked up the Hyundai Ionic. This pleasant looking, all electric sedan showed a range of 200 kilometres when I picked it up in Markham. As I got on the highway, I put the AC on, and quickly saw the range drop to 177. It was momentarily alarming, but once again a broad range of driving modes assists the driver in putting energy back in the bank, so to say. Putting the Ionic in Eco mode and choosing an aggressive level of brake regeneration will extend the vehicle range, or at least keep it from sudden depletion. These extreme levels of energy saving are best used in the city, on the 401, surrounded by trucks, you don’t want to feel like you are driving a golf cart.
Like the e-Golf, the Ionic has seamless power, good braking but where it lags is in steering feel-it’s artificial and annoying. The vagueness is most evident on the highway, in the city it’s not so much of an issue. The Ionic at $ 41,849 with the similar $14,000 incentive from the Ontario government, has a decent interior though not as polished as the e-Golf. The centre console display screen is excellent, with sharp graphics, and the Ionic has many good features that make driving an EV less daunting. Instantly you can find nearby charging stations, and if you put in a destination on the navigation screen it will tell you if you have enough range to get there. When I returned the Ionic I started out with a range of 200 kilometres, and still had 115 left when I reached Markham.
These two cars changed my mind about electric vehicles, but keep in mind the summer driving is an easier test than winter. Cold weather and the need for heat and defrosting in the vehicle will impact range more dramatically. If buying I would choose the e-Golf over the Ionic for its completely natural driving feel.