Every week seems to bring another announcement that the next generation of an EV model is getting a big boost in driving range. The latest news comes from Volkswagen. Company executives confirmed this week that the next generation of the E-Golf—due before the end of 2016—will benefit from an increase in battery capacity from 24.2 kilowatt-hours to 35.8 kWh. That’s a jump of 48 percent, pushing driving range to between about 115 and 125 miles.
Based on the rule of the thumb that we like—the ability to get about 3.5 miles of range per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity—we can expect around 120 miles of real-world driving range from a relatively light compact car. Previous models with around 40 kilowatt-hour packs—like the Toyota RAV4 EV and a version of the Tesla Model S that never made it into production—promised about 120 miles of range. Both of those vehicles were heavier and bigger than the E-Golf.
In April, AAA rated the current VW E-Golf as its top Green Compact Car for 2016 . The Volkswagen E-Golf may not be the best-selling eco-friendly compact car on the market—or even the top-selling compact all-electric vehicle. But in terms of what makes a small car great and green, according to AAA, the E-Golf is the best overall compact green car on the market.
While the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt—both promising 200 miles of range—grab more headlines, EV driving range is slowly, steadily and broadly increasing for nearly all companies and models. A couple weeks ago, BMW announced that the 2017 i3 electric car will go to a 33 kilowatt-hour pack providing about 114 miles of electric driving range. That’s a jump from the current model's 81 miles.
Last year, Nissan introduced the 2016 version of the LEAF with a battery pack that brings driving range to 107 miles—up from the 84 miles offered in LEAFs since 2010. In mid-April, Kevin Layden, Ford's director of electrification programs and engineering, said the 2017 Focus Electric will see a jump from the outgoing model’s 76 miles of range to a full 100 miles. The next Kia Soul EV will also boost its range, but the company has not yet provided details.
The same escalation is occurring among plug-in hybrids with the 2016 Volt now offering 53 miles of all-electric range (over the previous 38 miles)—while Toyota is promising that the next plug-in Prius would double its battery capacity to push all-electric range to around 22 miles.
Speaking with journalists at the Formula E electric racing event  last weekend, Dr. Volkmar Tanneberger, Volkswagen’s director of electric development, said the new E-Golf would use next-generation battery cells. Frank Welsch, a Volkswagen board member overseeing technical development, added, “[Battery} cell technology is moving forward quickly, and will move even faster in the future.”
The 2017 Volkswagen E-Golf is expected to produce 160 horsepower, providing a top speed of 93 miles per hour, and zero-to-60 performance of about nine seconds. The entire Gold lineup is expected to get a mid-cycle refresh in the next couple years, with an entirely new generation expected for model year 2020.
Audi, Volkswagen’s luxury brand, is expected to introduce its Audi Q6 E-Tron Quattro—a pure electric crossover SUV with 300 miles of range—by 2018.