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Volkswagen’s E-Bugster: Will The Green Car Boost The Automobile Giant’s Eco-Reputation?

To say that Volkswagen hasn’t been a leader in green cars is putting it mildly.

VW officials brought some reporters to Europe recently to talk about green cars, and then spent much of the trip deriding the whole concept of battery vehicles. I drove a prototype electric Golf (with 26.5 kilowatt-hours of Sanyo batteries) in California in 2010, and the car has been making slow progress. A fleet of 20 of these competent but underwhelming buggies are quietly on the road, and production will reportedly begin in 2014. But don’t expect a big push—they could be “compliance vehicles” to satisfy California green car regulations. I saw the hybrid version of the Jetta in New York, and found it amazingly cautious—not likely to dent the Prius’ domination of the market.

And then came the E-Bugster, quite a leap forward for VW. The company has showed off this dashing concept car several times, first in Detroit early this year and then a few months later at the Beijing Auto Show. Things are advancing quickly, because earlier this month VW handed the keys to some journalists at the Laguna Seca race track in California. There was no opportunity to prove that VW had built a Tesla Roadster killer—speeds were limited to just 20 mph.


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