CHRISTINA ROGERS

VW ready to test America's appetite to plug in

Christina Rogers covers VW and regulatory/legislative issues for Automotive NewsChristina Rogers covers VW and regulatory/legislative issues for Automotive News
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Get ready America. Here they come: Volkswagen is bringing its test fleet of all-electric Golfs to the United States.

Yes, all 20 of them.

VW, which has been cautious so far, is now taking its first stab at full EVs.

As part of a pilot program, it plans to hand over the keys of 20 e-Golf prototypes to U.S. drivers, including 12 VW employees, to test the car's capabilities on the great American roadways. Or at least, those roadways within the pilot's test markets: Detroit, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The nine-month pilot begins in April.

Drivers will also receive a host of specialized equipment to help them get better acquainted with their test cars: a 220-volt charging station, an iPhone and dedicated VW app for the car, and a Web site for around-the-clock support.

In the process, VW will also be testing out what works and what doesn't with hopes of making adjustments before the car goes into production next year.

The e-Golf is expected to reach U.S. showrooms in late 2013.

The electric version looks exactly like the four-door Golf now in production but is powered by an electric motor and lithium ion battery. VW expects the e-Golf to get an estimated 93 miles in range, but the EPA has yet to make the final determination.

Of course, VW is far from the only automaker asking U.S. drivers to take their electric cars for a spin.

In January, BMW began recruiting drivers to field test its first all-electric car, the EActive. The luxury carmaker is making the cars available through a $499 a month lease-only option in seven U.S. markets, including Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

The program is slightly bigger than VW's pilot. BMW is searching for 700 drivers in all. But VW drivers will get their test cars for free.

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