Why The Volkswagen ID.4 Is 2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year — I Think

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As I revealed and discussed in a recent CleanTech Talk podcast, the Volkswagen ID.4 won the 2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year award. This article is another celebration of the vehicle, as well as an explanation of why it won — sort of. One unique thing about our awards is that we pick the finalists but then voters pick the winner. So, I can explain why I think the Volkswagen ID.4 won the 2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year award, but this is not a perfect summary of the reasons why everyone who voted for the ID.4 voted for it.

Cost for Value is King

I’m going to cut to the chase and get to what I think is the core point first. Our awards competition is focused on which car will have the greatest positive net impact on the world and solving the climate change crisis. That means the flashiest, most expensive car is unlikely to win, and even an amazing $70,000+ car is unlikely to win. Especially now that there is a lot more variety on the market, electric vehicle tech has advanced, battery costs have come down, and several automakers are trying to produce true mass-market competitors, the most likely winners are vehicles that have a superb mix of good specs but affordable price. This is where the Volkswagen ID.4 seems to really excel. I’ll get further into that point further down in this article.

Global Leadership

Volkswagen ID.4. Photo by Kyle Field/CleanTechnica.
Photo by Kyle Field/CleanTechnica.
Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica
Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica
Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Another thing to keep in mind is that this is a global competition, looking at global impact. There are some great electric vehicle models in different markets around the world, but there are not that many that span the three largest markets — Europe, China, and North America — well. Furthermore, not all automakers are committed to selling about as many cars as they can find a way to produce. Some models have a clear sales limit that is based on targets the automaker needs to achieve in specific markets in order to satisfy regulations and not be fined. One of the inspiring things about the ID.4 is that it is being sold across major markets and one gets the sense that Volkswagen is actually eager to increase sales as much as it can generate demand. And it is off to a good start. Below is a European plugin vehicle sales chart showing that, despite not yet being on the market at the beginning of the year, the ID.4 has already risen to #4 among fully electric cars in Europe.

Below is another chart — a sneak preview of my coming US EV sales report — showing that the ID.4 is also already a top seller in the United States. If you look at both of those charts, you can see that there is only one model that is above the ID.4 in both places — the world’s best selling electric vehicle, the Tesla Model 3, which won the 2018 CleanTechnica Car of the Year winner. The Model 3 is clearly having a bright career. Let’s see how much the ID.4 shines in coming years.

We cannot ignore that the ID.4 has good range on a full charge, decent tech and fast-charging capability, over-the-air software updates (as of this week), attractive design, and basically everything an average person wants in a car or SUV. Having a good base in all of those regards is important, of course. However, those things alone don’t win you the CleanTechnica Car of the Year award. As noted above, I think the most impressive thing about the ID.4 is that it offers what people require or want in all of those respects at a relatively low price.

Volkswagen itself highlighted this recently in a press release titled “Volkswagen ID.4 Is The Most Affordable All-Wheel-Drive Electric Vehicle On Sale In The U.S.” The ID.4 Pro has a starting MSRP of $43,675. The Tesla Model Y AWD’s starting price is $52,990, and the Ford Mustang Mach-E with AWD adds  on at least a couple thousand. That ID.4 Pro with AWD offers:

  • 295 max hp
  • 0–60 mph in 5.7 seconds
  • EPA-estimated 249 miles of range (or 240 miles of range for the AWD Pro S model)
  • 2,700 lb towing capacity when using a braked trailer (20% more than ID.4 RWD 1st Edition)


Though, it’s the ID.4 Pro trim that really make the ID.4 accessible to the most people. It has a starting MSRP of $39,995, which drops down to $32,495 if you can take advantage of the $7,500 US federal tax credit, and an EPA estimated range of 260 miles. When you include operational savings (lower maintenance costs lower costs to “fuel”/charge the ID.4 compared to a conventional gas-powered vehicle in that class), you’re really looking at a new, cutting-edge, stylish, electric crossover that competes with gas-powered crossovers that cost less than $30,000. At this point, the biggest challenge to enormous sales is consumer awareness and the effectiveness of the vehicle’s salespeople.

I have conducted a number of “total cost of ownership” analyses for the Volkswagen ID.4 in comparison to competing models from Volkswagen itself as well as other brands. Some charts from those analyses are below. However, for much more detail, check out Volkswagen ID.4 Vs. Volkswagen Tiguan — 5 Year Cost Of Ownership, Volkswagen ID.4 Vs. Hyundai Tucson — 5 Year Cost Of Ownership, and Volkswagen ID.4 Vs. Toyota RAV4 — ID.4 Has Lower Cost Of Ownership In Many Scenarios.

It’s About Sales, People

Let’s return to “the biggest challenge to enormous sales is consumer awareness and the effectiveness of the vehicle’s salespeople.” I think this was another area where voters just decided Volkswagen had the edge. The runner-up, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, looks like a tremendous effort from a good electric vehicle team at Ford. It seems that it could be a top seller and also ignites another big spark in the electric vehicle industry thanks to Ford putting a big name behind it — Mustang. Though, there are still questions about how many Ford is looking to produce and how hard it will try to increase consumer demand, not just be satisfied with whatever it gets. Volkswagen, on the other hand, has been putting years of work into reinventing itself as an electric vehicle leader. There is a general sense that Volkswagen will both sell as many ID.4 vehicles as it can and also look obsessively for ways to increase consumer demand in the US, China, and Europe.

For more discussion of the 2021 CleanTechnica Car of the Year winner, listen to this CleanTech Talk podcast:

Previous CleanTechnica Car of the Year winners are as follows:

2020: Tesla Model Y

2019: Hyundai Kona EV

2018: Tesla Model 3

2017: Chevy Bolt EV

2016: Tesla Model X

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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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