Electric Volkswagen Golf eR1 concept makes debut as ice racer

3 February 2020 - autocar

Electric Volkswagen Golf eR1 concept makes debut as ice racer

e-Performance Golf R is development of ID R test mule, will be used to showcase VW's electric technology

Volkswagen has showcased a fully electric four-wheel-drive e-performance Golf R concept car, featuring technology that will underpin future electric cars from the R performance brand, at the GP Ice Race event in Austria this weekend.

The machine is one of a number of motorsport-based machines Volkswagen is running in the showcase event, which takes place around an ice circuit on a frozen airfield in Zell am See. But while other machines either on display or competing include the record-breaking ID R hillclimb machine and a number of Beetles, the Golf R concept – given the designation eR1 - is described by VW motorsport boss Sven Smeets as offering "a view of the future".

While no technical details of the e-performance Golf R have been released, it is a development of the test mule for the ID R hillclimb car, featuring a development of the twin-motor powertrain from that machine. It will now be used "as an ambassador for future performance cars for Volkswagen R". The R division is working on a high performance ID 3 R, which is expected to be launched by 2024.

Volkswagen R boss Jost Capito said the eR1 was "not built to any race regulations, and it's not intended to race - but we'll use it to get experience of electric performance cars and to do fun stuff with the car to showcase the technology." That will include promotional events in both Europe and the US.

Capito said that the eR1 moniker was chosen deliberately to highlight that the performance division's intent that "there will be more. If we call it 1, then there will be a 2."

The car uses a Golf TCR touring car shell, albeit fitted with an electric four-wheel drive system more akin to a rallycross machine. VW previously developed the powertrain for the 671bhp twin-motor ID R hillclimb car by running it in a Golf TCR. It is also unlikely that any electric performance powertrain will make it into either a production or competition car in a Golf, with VW focusing on its ID line for full electric vehicles.

Volkswagen has committed to only running full electric motorsport projects in the future, including the continuation of the ID R project. That machine has already set new outright or electric records at Pikes Peak, the Nürburgring, Goodwood and China's Tianmen Mountain. In 2020, the team will aim to set a new lap record at Sonoma Raceway in California and return to Goodwood, while also developing a second-generation ID R 'Evo'.

Alongside that, VW has phased out support for the Golf TCR tin-top and committed to running customer electric motorsport programmes based around the new MEB electric chassis, used for the upcoming line of ID machines. VW technical chief Frank Welsch previously said that "the MEB will in future be the second, production-related pillar in Volkswagen's motorsport programme".

While the electric Golf R could showcase the powertrain for a future ID 3-based electric touring car, which would run in the forthcoming E-TCR electric category, VW motorsport boss Sven Smeets said no decision had been made to enter that series – but hinted there was interest in doing so from a customer and promotional viewpoint.

Volkswagen's first step into hot electric road cars is set to come with the ID 4 GTX, which is set to be unveiled alongside the regular version of the electric SUV later this year.

Not every car Volkswagen will demo at the GP Ice Race this weekend looks to the future. The firm is also showcasing a historic 1302 S 'Salzburg' Beetle and the American rallycross title-winning Beetle R.

Bentley is also tackling the event, running a Continental GT W12 ice racer. Porsche is demonstrating an electric Taycan alongside a number of historic rally cars.

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