2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year & Tesla Model S Plaid — CleanTech Talk

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Electric vehicle technology has advanced tremendously in the past few years, let alone the past decade. The two topics of this week’s CleanTech Talk podcast are clear, strong evidence of this. In this episode, I talk with Matt Pressman, cofounder of EV Annex, about the hot new Tesla Model S Plaid, the quickest car in history. I then announce our 2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year. To avoid a spoiler, hit play on the embedded podcast below before reading on (or go find the podcast on your favorite podcast network — links below).

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First of all, the hot news that kicked off our discussion was the just-released Tesla Model S Plaid. The acceleration on that vehicle continues to blow Matt and me away — in multiple ways. There are a number of fascinating things about the vehicle, including that it’s tremendously aerodynamic, it includes a PS5-level gaming system, it has carbon-wrapped rotors, and, of course, it’s the quickest production vehicle in history, even quicker than cars that cost millions of dollars. Matt owns and I previously co-owned a dual-motor Model S that accelerates from 0–60 mph in 5.4 seconds. That is already a wild thing to experience, especially because of the instant torque. Cutting that acceleration down to 1.99 seconds is absurd.

We talked a bit more about the tech evolution that led to this Model S Plaid, its place in history, and the increasingly competitive, compelling, long-range electric vehicles hitting the market. Then, on the flip side of the very high-performance but rather expensive Model S Plaid, we got to the 2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year. …

As you can see, the winner according to reader votes was the Volkswagen ID.4! Different people may have voted for the ID.4 for different reasons, and Matt & I talked about a few of them. The core advantages of the ID.4 in this competition in my eyes were:

  1. The ID.4 comes in at quite a low cost considering what it offers in terms of range, cargo capacity, tech, and build quality (more on the cost down below)
  2. Volkswagen is intent on producing and selling a lot of these.

There were many contenders for 2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year, and many that have good features like the ID.4 has. There are other electric vehicles that are larger, quicker, packed with more advanced infotainment tech or semi-autonomous driving tech. In fact, the other finalists were very compelling vehicles. However, the two matters above are what really set the ID.4 apart, so I assume that’s why voters strongly favored the ID.4 in this year’s competition.

In the U.S., the ID.4 has an MSRP of $40,000. Include the $7,500 (which Volkswagen EV buyers are still eligible for — whereas Tesla and GM buyers are not), and that comes down to $32,500, which is getting to a truly mass-market level. Add in the cost of ownership savings and the ID.4 competes very well against some of the top selling vehicles on the market. For much more detail on that, you can explore my cost of ownership analyses comparing forecasts for the ID.4 with forecasts for the Volkswagen Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, and Hyundai Tucson, The fact that the ID.4 is a better vehicle than any of those models yet comes at a similar or lower 5-year cost of ownership is something most consumers don’t know, but many will learn.

The second critical element is that Volkswagen really plans to sell this model. The company is one of the most serious about vehicle electrification, and the ID.4 is a key model for the brand. In fact, it was the top selling plugin vehicle in Europe in April, and is already the 6th best selling fully electric model on the Old Continent. It is also likely to be one of the better selling electric vehicles in the United States as production ramps up.

The ID.4 has 250 miles (402 km) of range, according to the EPA, which I think is a perfect balance taking into account what most people need and the fact that more batteries means higher cost.

The styling is slick yet accessible, high tech yet subtle, premium yet affordable. It is another top example of what makes Volkswagen the best selling automaker in the world. Thank goodness Volkswagen is now on the side of electrification.

I’ll write a bit more about the Volkswagen ID.4’s position as the 2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year shortly, and what that may mean in the grander scheme of things in the auto market. For now, though, to hear more about the vehicle’s newest award, listen to the podcast embedded above or on your favorite podcast network.


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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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