Volkswagen used the Los Angeles Auto Show to launch its first U.S. electric vehicle in the nation’s premier zero-emissions car market.
The 2015 Volkswagen eGolf, in its North America debut on Wednesday, joins a host of electric cars from automakers seeking to comply with California’s strict pollution standards, which essentially mandate production of cars with no tailpipe emissions.
The eGolf will go on sale in select states in fall 2014. It will join a host of other electrics that sell in low volumes but nonetheless have sparked high competition among automakers.
Car companies -- which get credits toward meeting California regulations for each zero-emissions car sold -- have deeply discounted leases on the cars, which have surged in popularity this year.
“We see the eGolf as part of our overall objective by 2018 to see 3% of vehicle sales be electric vehicles,” said Jonathan Browning, VW’s chief executive, in an interview. “We’re rounding out our portfolio of regular gas, diesel, hybrid and now electric vehicles.”
The VW is among four significant plug-in vehicle debuts at this year’s L.A. Auto Show. Elsewhere around the Los Angeles Convention Center, General Motors was scheduled to roll out the Cadillac ELR, based on the Chevrolet Volt; BMW showed off its i3 battery electric; and VW’s luxury division Audi rolled out a corporate cousin of the eGolf, the Audi A3 e-tron.
Volkswagen did not announce pricing on the eGolf, the electric version of its popular sporty hatchback. But the car will likely be eligible for state and federal buyer incentives of up to $10,000.
The eGolf will have a driving range of between 70 and 90 miles on a full charge, comparable to many battery-powered cars in the niche segment. The car will charge in less than four hours on a 220-volt charging station, VW says, also similar to most comparable battery electrics.
The drivetrain consists of a 24.2 kWh battery and an electric motor, producing 115 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. A 7.2 kW on-board charger comes standard.
The eGolf will offer three driving modes -- Normal, Eco and Eco+ -- giving the driver a menu of trade-offs between performance and range. Eco mode drops the horsepower to 94 and increases the 0-to-60 mph time from 10.4 to 13.1. Top speed drops from 87 to 72.
VW does not specify how much these sacrifices will increase the car’s driving range, which depends on many factors.
The car’s regenerative braking system, which captures energy from friction to recharge the battery, will also have three settings. The driver uses the settings somewhat like gear shifts on a transmission, and each applies increasingly strong levels of automatic braking, acting to both slow and recharge the car.
VW will distinguish the eGolf visually with a colored strip across the front grill, energy-efficient LED lighting and 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels distinct from the rest of the 2015 Golf lineup.
And, of course, no tailpipe.