Volkswagen E-Bugster Plug-in Brings Impressive Charging and Battery Advancements
By Laurent J. Masson
To some onlookers, the Volkswagen E-Bugster concept unveiled at the North American International Auto Show was a disappointment. As we say in French, this E-Bugster is déjà vu. We’ve seen it before. Really. Seven years ago, exactly at the same place, Volkswagen unveiled the Ragster concept, which looked pretty much the same. After so much time, you might assume this E-Bugster is a production model, but it isn’t. It’s another concept.
So how is the E-Bugster any different from the dozens of other never-to-be-made concepts you see at motor shows? First of all, it is a functioning automobile. In addition, it has something you don’t find in one-off prototypes—use of a standardized drivetrain, which actually pretty big deal.
Sharing Is Caring
The Volkswagen group sold a record 8.16 million vehicles to its customers in 2011. Record profits are on the way, thanks in no small part to the use of shared platforms and engines. It’s less common in America, but in Europe, the Skoda and Seat brands sell cars with a Czech or a Spanish flavor (respectively), that are 100 percent Volkswagen cars underneath.
How does this relate to EVs? Barely two months ago, at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Audi unveiled an electric A3 e-tron concept. It had the same motor found in this E-Bugster—which is also the one we saw the year before, when Volkswagen introduced an electric Golf called Blue-e-Motion. Eighty of them are currently undergoing a test in Berlin, and preliminary results have reportedly been very positive.
Without much fanfare, Volkswagen has been hard at work on electric mobility, making it better in every aspect, and they’re already getting results. Power from the motor is 85 kW (115 hp), the same as it was the Golf Blue-e-Motion, but the motor has been made lighter. Its weight is down to 80 kg (176 lbs).
The battery pack has more capacity. It was 26.5 kWh in the Golf, and now that’s up to 28.3 kWh. Volkswagen says that it enables a range of at least 110 miles. It’s unknown what cells Volkswagen is using—it tested cells from numerous manufacturers—but it’s unlikely that they will be small cells like Tesla uses.
The E-Bugster also shows a huge improvement on the charging side. Thanks to a new Combined Charging Systems (CCS), which was developed in cooperation with all the other German carmakers, as well as Ford and GM, the car can be charged via a unique interface, with different currents.
The E-Bugster uses the same plug connector to charge from a standard American 110-Volt wall outlet, and up to an ultra-fast 50 kW DC current at electric charge stations. That’s way beyond the simple standardization of the plug connector. Volkswagen’s plan is to outdo the other car manufacturers that have designed their cars with several charging systems. The idea here is to have one smart charge controller, and a versatile unique electrical architecture to make the most of the current available, wherever the driver plugs in.
At best, the 28.3 kWh battery in this E-Bugster can be charged in 35 minutes. Volkswagen will invest what it takes to make this impressive feat a reality in all of its electric vehicles. Electric cars using the Blue-e-Motion electric powertrain will go into production in cars like the Golf as soon as next year, with others likely to follow.