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History of Volkswagen Electric Cars

Gear case (3)The e-Golf is not the first electric car that Volkswagen has made. Back in 1976, Volkswagen made one Rabbit with a 20 horsepower DC electric motor and a pile of lead acid batteries in the trunk where the spare tire would normally go. The Rabbit, already called the Golf in Germany, car had a range of 30 miles and could muster a steady 50 mph. It was was used as a research vehicle and got equipped with different types of batteries and electric motors. About ten years later it was retired to a museum with just 12,721 miles on it.

The first official electric car was a Golf produced in 1989. The Golf II CityStromer was made available to the public after a pile of testing. The Golf had a 25 horsepower AC motor and sixteen lead-gel batteries installed in the floor of the trunk, running 96 Volts with a capacity of 120 amp-hours (Ah). The specs were 30 miles on a charge, top speed of 60 mph, and could get to 30 mph in roughly 13 long seconds. An onboard charger accepted a standard 220 Volt AC plug. To preserve range, the heater was diesel powered, think freezy Germany. Only 120 were ever produced.

During those first electric Golf years, VW also produced an electric Jetta II. Pushing the technology further, the larger trunk allowed using controversial sodium-sulfur batteries, giving it a 74 mile range. In 1993, Volkswagen collaborated the well-known Siemens company to produce the electric Golf III. Also known as CityStromers, they had a 23 hp AC motor and carried 16 lead-gel batteries, giving it 96 Volts with 180 Ah. Battery regeneration with braking helped give a 55 mile range at low speeds, and a top speed of 100 kph (62 mph). The 220 Volt charger could recharge the batteries to 80% in 1 1/2 hours, fully charging in just over 2 hours.

Steve, the Karmakanix Owner, worked on an electric 1969 VW Type III Squareback here in Berkeley between 1983 and 1985. It belonged to the local Berkeley Dog Catcher. After reclocking the torsion bar springs to get the bumpers further off the ground, the biggest issue was new ball joints almost yearly due to the weight of the batteries mounted in the front trunk.

Back in the 90’s, Steve worked on an electric 1973 VW Van belonging to Kim and Barry Webster of Berkeley California, dubbed the Voltswagen. Eight Golf Cart batteries powered the van for about 35-40 miles between charges.

Some might enjoy this Wikipedia Article on the history of the electric vehicle.

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