It began a couple of years ago with an electric Golf (a very good example of the genre) but progress has been rapid with the launch of two dedicated EVs – the ID.3 and now the larger ID.4. A sporty GTX version was recently announced, and an ID.5 is due later this year.
The latter is described as a ‘compact’ sports utility vehicle but it is a generously-sized family transporter, with room for five adults in comfort and a large boot (543 litres, rising to 1,575 with the rear seats folded down).
The test car was a 1st Edition Pro Performance version, with the most powerful motor (204Ps) and the longest range, 310 miles. At £40,110 it comes at a range topping price, too, while the entry-level City Pure is £8,000 cheaper. The longer the range, the bigger the batteries needed and the greater the cost.
There are the longer-term savings, though. Lower fuel (energy) costs, zero car tax in the first year, lower servicing costs and just one per cent benefit in kind tax for company car users (20 per cent tax payers).
Electricity costs vary according to which charging company you use – 10-12p per mile for commercial chargers, a lot less if you have a home charger. On a rapid charger, you can get to 80 per cent of full capacity in under 40 minutes.
The test car was luxuriously equipped, up to the standard of a premium saloon which given its lower running costs makes it look particularly competitive.
It comes with multiple airbags and the latest electronic safety systems, a central computer screen controller for secondary functions such as navigation, audio and connectivity (including VW’s emergency call system), dual zone climate control, heated seats and steering wheel, and automatic headlights.
In spite of its futuristic technology the ID.4 is simple to drive – probably more so than a conventional car. A simple switch replaces a gear level for the automatic transmission – press Park and the electronic handbrake activates automatically. Select Drive (or reverse) and the brake is automatically released.
The ID.4 is virtually silent – except for a little tyre noise on some surfaces – and the external ‘e-sound’ added for pedestrian safety – isn’t audible in the cabin.
It’s a heavy car but the bulk of that weight (the batteries) are under the floor, making for a low centre of gravity, and therefore stability. Speed sensitive power steering and rear-wheel drive make it feel light and agile at any speed.
The batteries are guaranteed for eight years or 100,000 miles.