The Volkswagen e-Golf is an interesting piece of electric vehicle history. It was only manufactured during the seventh generation of the iconic Golf nameplate, before any of the ID-badged EVs came to life, making it an almost 10-year-old car.

It also came with a rather small, 24.4-kilowatt-hour (gross) battery pack (a bigger version was introduced in 2017) that enabled an EPA range of just 83 miles, which was only of any real use around town. But after several years of use that include thousands of discharge cycles and hundreds of thousands of miles, can the e-Golf stand its ground as a modern, cost-effective urban runabout?

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One of Volkswagen's first mass-produced EVs goes under the microscope

A used Volkswagen e-Golf with 125,000 miles on the odometer was put to the test to see how much battery capacity it still has after seven years.

That’s what the good people from the Out of Spec Reviews YouTube channel tried to find out using their own money. After buying a 2016 e-Golf with an unknown driving history that probably involved an accident at some point, InsideEVs alumnus Kyle Conner wanted to see how much the battery had degraded after 125,000 miles and over 1,000 discharge cycles.

Gallery: 2018 Volkswagen e-Golf

The car cost just $3,500 and came with a slew of issues like a very worn-out suspension, mismatched tires, and an extensive list of errors showing on the central touchscreen display. It was also a smoker’s car, so the cabin smelled like you’d expect.

Some problems were fixed and others are in the pipeline, including a full suspension rebuild, but I’m going to leave that aside and focus on how the EV stacks up in a real-world range test.

The test started with a top-up to 100% from a DC fast charger. Then, Kyle and his passenger went on a test loop, driving at around 55 miles per hour trying to get the battery as close to zero as possible before plugging into a charger to get to 100% once again.

In the end, they would calculate how many kilowatt hours the car used for the trip and compare it against the value that the EV had when new. But here’s where things get a bit blurry because even though VW touted the e-Golf’s battery as a 24.2-kWh unit, that’s the gross capacity.

Furthermore, for a result that is as close to reality as possible, it would have been ideal to measure the usable capacity of the battery when the car was new, but that’s out of the question, seeing how the original owner never bothered to do something like this. So, to level out the playing field, Kyle used a value of 20 kWh as a rough estimate of what the EV had originally, a number that he took from fellow YouTuber Bjorn Nyland, who’s known in the electric car community for performing degradation tests.

So, armed with this knowledge, the pair set off with the AC on, the fan set to the lowest speed, and the driving mode set to Eco.

With the car showing 25% capacity, the estimated remaining range was just 10 miles. The driver turned off the AC and reduced the cruising speed to 50 mph at this point so that they could make it to the charging station safely.

A couple more miles later, the e-Golf went into Limited Performance mode. With just 2 miles of range left, it went into limp mode and limited the top speed to less than 50 mph and the acceleration response to what could best be described as almost dead.

That said, the duo made it to the charger successfully with the car showing just 1% SoC remaining. While plugged into the DC charger, Kyle ran the numbers and came up with the following result: 13.84 kWh, or 31% of the battery capacity was lost after 125,000 miles.

In other words, the usable range of this particular e-Golf is now about 40 miles, which is half of the EPA estimate when the car was new. Is this enough to make it a viable daily driver?

Kyle argues that it is, considering he paid just $3,500 for it and that he’s planning on charging it multiple times during the day and driving it around town. The e-Golf is capable of fast charging, albeit at less than 50 kW, so a full charge can be achieved in roughly 30 minutes, making it a reasonably cost-effective way to get around town.

40 miles in 2023 (and soon 2024) from an EV is laughable at first sight, but it goes to show that not everybody needs 500 miles of range every day. As always and as with every car (combustion-powered included), it depends on what the driver needs. 

But what do you think: could you live with an EV that can go less than 50 miles on a full charge? Let us know in the comments below.

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