Thirty years since Volkswagen introduced Formel E models

For the younger ones amongst you, technology such as Volkswagen’s BlueMotion must seem like the byword in cutting edge efficiency, but the Wolfsburg giant has actually been offering models with added frugality – including start/stop functions – for thirty years .

The Formel E (“Formula E”) badge seen on the rear of such models as the Derby, Polo, Golf, Jetta and Passat, indicated that that particular vehicle was equipped with a range of special options.

As far back as 1981, the Formel E cars wore smoother, more aerodynamic spoilers at the front and rear of the car, as well as on the A-pillars. Porsche’s latest 911 now features the world’s first seven-speed manual, where the seventh gear is extra long – purely to achieve better fuel economy while travelling long distance at high speed. Volkswagen was doing that thirty years ago, albeit with a few less ratios… Its four and five-speed transmissions were named the “3 + E” and “4 + E”, with the E referring to the so-called energy-saving gear. There was even a dial-mounted yellow LED on the petrol-engined cars, that lit up when it was time to shift into the next gear.

Larger models, such as the Passat and Santana were available with a start/stop function not too dissimilar to today’s in their operation. If a button, mounted on the end of the windscreen wiper stalk, was pressed, the engine would turn off. A push of the clutch brought the car back to life.

Personally, we remember looking under the bonnet of a 64 bhp Mk3 Golf Ecomatic from the early nineties, and mistaking its colossal battery for a small house. Things have evolved since then, but the the likes of Formel E certainly paved the way for the ever-improving fuel economy that today’s cars enjoy.

[Source: Volkswagen]

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