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VW unveils Golf GTE, plug-in hybrid with 31 miles electric range, 157 MPG

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On Thursday, Volkswagen unveiled the Plug-in Hybrid Golf GTE, making this the first automobile model line (the Golf GT) with a full range of drive train alternatives. Offering a 31 mile electric-only driving range, a total of 584 miles driving range, and 157 MPG fuel efficiency (European drive cycle), the Golf GTE is a welcome addition to VW's product line-up.

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VW has been a little slow to enter the electrified vehicle market, but a few months ago promised the company would take a "global market leadership in electric mobility" position by 2018. The capabilities of the Golf GTE foretell of good things from VW in the future.

The GTE terminology follows from other VW Golf's, where the GTI has fuel injection, and the GTD is diesel powered. The E in GTE obviously refers to electric drive, however the fully electric Golf instead carries the name e-Golf. Altogether the VW Golf line is now offered with gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), plug-in hybrid, and all electric drive trains. Of the other automakers, only Ford has a similar strategy (called by Ford, The Power of Choice) of offering the exact same vehicle but with a choice of drive train technology.

In VW's case the company has developed a "modular technology platform," called MQB, giving VW the modular flexibility needed to deliver multiple drive trains. As if five drive trains aren't enough, VW promises a fuel cell Golf as soon as technological developments make it possible.

The Golf GTE has two drive units, a 1.4-liter 148 horsepower turbocharged and direct-injection TSI engine and a 101 hp electric motor. Combined these provide 201 horsepower. On pure electric drive the top speed is 81 miles/hr. When using both drive units, the 0-60 miles/hr time is 7.6 seconds and top speed around 135 miles/hr. It should also be zippy thanks to a maximum torque of 258 lb-ft.

With 157 MPG fuel efficiency (European drive cycle), the zippy performance hasn't impacted efficiency and cleanliness.

The 31 miles electric driving range is supplied by a liquid-cooled 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. When charged from a regular power outlet, charging time is about 3 1/2 hours, or when charged from a regular charging station the full recharge time shortens to about 2 1/2 hours. The battery weighs 265 pounds, or about eight percent of the GTE’s 3360-pound curb weight.

The drive train includes a six-speed automatic transmission designed especially for hybrid vehicles. The electric motor is integrated with that transmission.

The Golf GTE includes a 6.5 inch touchscreen that includes a “driving range monitor", an “energy flow display”, “zero emission statistics”, “e-manager”. Optionally the infotainment system also supports a “360° driving range”. The e-manager handles both charging and passenger cabin temperature, such that the driver can select the time at which charging must be finished and the desired cabin temperature. The air conditioning or heating required to ensure this creature comfort won't, this way, come from the battery pack but from the charging station.

VW hasn't announced when the Golf GTE will be available for purchase. It will be shown in March at the Geneva International Motor Show (March 4 to 16, 2014).

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