September 23rd, 2020 by Kyle Field
This morning, Volkswagen officially took the wraps off of the highly anticipated ID.4 electric crossover. Ahead of the public unveiling, CleanTechnica sat down with Johan de Nysschen, Chief Operating Officer Volkswagen America, Matthew Renna, Volkswagen America Vice President of e-mobility, and Jeffrey Lear, Volkswagen America Product Manager of Electric Vehicles for a live event in Los Angeles.
The Volkswagen ID.4
Right out of the box, the new Volkswagen ID.4 is a good looking crossover. Sporting the classic CUV shape and modern lines, LED accents on the front and rear make it stand out from the pack. Inside, high end ventilated vegan leather seats and a minimalist interior lives up to the expectations of EV buyers. Outside, flush door handles and slick badging add touches of refinement without having to scream.
Overall, the Volkswagen ID.4 was designed from the ground up as a solid competitor in the hot global crossover market, taking on popular combustion vehicles like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and even VW’s own Tiguan. It brings VW’s quality and attention to detail to the world of electric vehicles in a beautiful crossover with modern, mainstream appeal that’s right on trend with popular crossovers in the segment today.
With comfortable seating for 5, the rear seats have plenty of room for actual adults to sit in. No need for cramming of legs or moving the front seats up under the dash. People just fit. Like it was designed that way. Crossovers exist to deliver all the functionality of larger SUVs at lower price points, in a smaller, and more efficient footprint. They seat 5, they haul gear, the split seats let owners pack in more cargo or more people.
An VW’s first affordable, long range electric vehicle, the ID.4 delivers on consumer expectations for a vehicle that is functional first. Yeah, it happens to be electric, but that’s not really the focus. That’s not to say VW didn’t put a ton of effort into building a fantastic electric vehicle, because they did and it shows.
The ID.4 was designed to bring a completely new level of aerodynamics to the world of CUVs with a drag coefficient of just 0.28. CUVs don’t lend themselves to aerodynamics, but being able to slip through the wind efficiently is critical to extracting as much range as possible from the onboard battery. The ID.4 Pro boasts a 250 mile range from its 82 kWh pack and when it comes time to recharge, it can pull down power at up to 125 kW on a DC fast charger.
Volkswagen also has an all wheel drive version of the ID.4 in the works that promises to satisfy on the performance front. The pair of front and rear motors will boast a combined output of 302 horsepower.
At launch, the ID.4 will be available as the 1st Edition and in a Pro configuration. Both configurations sport an AC permanent-magnet synchronous motor boasting 201 horsepower, 288 pound-feet of instant torque, and all the top notch accoutrements customers have come to expect from VW inside. They come standard with heated seats, navigation, VW’s IQ.DRIVE driver comfort suite, and more. The ID.4 Pro configuration starts at $39,995 with two packages that give buyers the ability to upgrade to power seats, an expansive panoramic glass roof with seamless views of the heavens, larger rims, and more.
The $43,995 1st Edition comes standard with both of the upgrade packages available on the Pro and a few unique 1st Edition perks. The brake and accelerator pedals sport playful “Pause” and “Play” logos on them, 1st edition badging throughout, a tow hitch, contrast mirror caps, and exclusive white accents throughout. We spent some time in a white 1st Edition and found it to be an extremely well appointed vehicle.
VW boasts better sound dampening than competing electric crossovers for an experience that’s sure to be even quieter than EV drivers are used to. Drivers coming from combustion vehicles are sure to be impressed by the near silence in the cabin as soon as the doors swing closed.
Dollars & Sense
With a starting price in the US of $39,995 before the $7,500 federal tax credit, the ID.4 strikes right at the heart of competing crossovers. At launch, all ID.4s will be imported from VW’s factory in Zwickau, Germany until VW’s ID.4 lines at its facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee are up and running. A more affordable version is planned at the $35,000 before rebates after local production in Chattanooga, Tennessee comes online. Local air district and state incentives like California’s $2,000 CVRP take the cost down further in some areas.
The ID.4 was priced to seduce combustion vehicle drivers and by all counts, it is a runaway success. Taking the federal tax credit into account, early buyers of the ID.4 will enjoy an extremely attractive up front purchase price. With the lower maintenance and fuel costs enjoyed by electric vehicle owners around the world, the ID.4 should come in with a much lower total cost of ownership than competing combustion vehicles. Fuel savings alone are estimated to be around $2,500 in the first 5 years of ownership for the ID.4. That’s even more attractive thanks to the 3 years of free charging at Electrify America’s fast charging stations that comes free with every ID.4.
While we don’t have maintenance figures for it, it’s safe to assume drivers can expect some savings in the maintenance department as well.
With a price point that’s competitive before rebates and down right sexy after rebates, the ID.4 is priced right. Taking the lower fuel and maintenance costs into account, the ID.4 is poised to deliver an extremely competitive crossover with a total cost of ownership that’s more attractive than the competition. It’s a great car at an even better price for buyers looking for a crossover whether electric or not.
The ID.4 sports dual interior screens with a multitude of interfaces for drivers. Touching the 10″ center display offers tablet style navigation if that’s your speed. A handful of buttons flank the steering wheel airbag for easy control of the basics after a few days of getting familiar with their locations.
VW has stepped up their game with a new gesture control scheme that worked well in my brief testing in the prototype. It’s not hard to conceive of a system where switching screens, dismissing text messages, skipping songs, and even adjusting volume could be done without even a glance at the screen itself. Drivers can also control the system using voice commands, though these systems are so hit or miss, it’s hard to get too excited about that without more testing.
As the primary interface with the driver, the infotainment system actually boots up when the driver sits down. Of course, all of these seamless experiences are predicated on having the key fob for the car nearby.
If You Build It, They Will Come
With the ID.3 and now the ID.4, it is clear Volkswagen is making a serious push into the world of electric vehicles. They talk a massive game when it comes to volume and by all accounts, they have the manufacturing strength to back it up. Volkswagen’s factory in Zwickau, Germany produced its last combustion vehicle in June and is now fully focused on building electric vehicles.
Shipping vehicles to customers around the world is not ideal, but work is already underway at VW’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee to add ID.4 production. Local production will continue to drive cost down and will enable production of a more affordable $35,000 version. VW has already poured a massive amount of capital into the ID program already and is surely eager to ramp up production in order to realize some gains on all that front-loaded spending.
It is the first compact SUV to utilize VW’s modular electric drive architecture, also known as the MEB platform. It will validate the platform for scalability within VW, across other VW Group brands, and possibly even to external partners. The more volume VW can push onto the MEB platform, the better pricing it will get on battery cells and the lower the overall cost of the platform will be to every single vehicle using it.
VW offering the ID.4 in all 50 states at more than 600 dealerships is a huge vote of confidence in the vehicle and combined with its attractive positioning in the market, should help to drive volume. And that puts the ball right back in VW’s court. VW has brought an extremely attractive vehicle to the market in the ID.4 and now it’s time to start cranking them out.
They need to start pumping out ID.4s to realize some revenue from the massive amount of capital laid out at its facilities around the world. They need to start pumping out cars to establish themselves as real players in the EV space. To date, dealerships, with their heavy bias towards generating revenue from service, have been a barrier to EV sales. That’s not a VW thing, it is across the board. If VW is to succeed, they are going to have to truly invest in a new type of partnership that ensures selling EVs is a profitable endeavor for both parties.
And finally, VW are going to have to start churning out massive amounts of electric vehicles to drive its internal costs down before the federal tax credit and other incentives start to run out. Tesla famously slashed its pricing as the federal tax credit started to drop off and VW will have to do the same. It feels like free money up front, but there is a very real cliff that comes up faster than it might initially seem when the price tag for consumers goes up significantly as government rebates drop off.
The ID.4 is an exciting new entrant to the world of electric vehicles with a cost proposition that is perhaps the most exciting piece of the equation. From the looks of it, they really do just have to build it.
The ID.4 is available to reserve on vw.com starting today for just $100 with the first vehicles being delivered to customers later this year.
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