They say there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, but the new Volkswagen ID.4 electric vehicle comes pretty close. The compact SUV has garnered rave reviews, partly thanks to its affordability compared to other EVs in its class, and the convenience of EV charging stations in leading markets. Volkswagen is also milking the charging station angle with 3 years’ worth of free juice. It’s a genius way to untangle the TCO mystery and attract new car buyers, so let’s see if it works.
The Most Affordable Electric Vehicle & TCO
Let’s pause here for a word about EV affordability compared to conventional cars. The up-front price of an electric vehicle is relatively high mainly because batteries are more expensive than gas tanks, but lower fuel and maintenance costs even out the playing field over time. Indeed, the true cost of ownership (TCO) of an electric vehicle showed signs of drifting down to the level of gasmobiles several years ago, and the outlook has improved since then.
Throw in free EV charging for a few years, and it becomes more clear that an electric vehicle can beat a comparable gasmobile on TCO any day of the week — if not right now, then in the near future.
US deliveries of the ID.4 are expected to begin later this year, with the ID.4 AWD Pro clocking in at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $43,675 for starters, which Volkswagen asserts is “lower than any other AWD BEV on sale today.”
That’s a good deal higher than many comparable gasmobiles and hybrids on the market today, especially when you add a destination charge of $1,195. However, the $7,500 in federal electric vehicle tax credit could apply. Now figure out how much gas you would spend on a comparable gasmobile over a 3-year period, and tack that on to the the minus column, too.
Doing the math, our friends over at AAA currently cite an average cost of about $3.00 per gallon (yikes!) for gasoline in the US, and the Energy Department is tracking fuel efficiency for compact gas-only SUVs in the range of 25 miles per gallon. Average miles driven vary considerably by state, so going with the conservative mark of 10,000 miles per year in New York, we arrive at 30,000 miles over a 3-year period.
You can do the rest of the math. The main point is that with the free EV charging deal, prospective EV buyers can get a sneak peek at their potential fuel savings over a gasmobile for the next 3 years without having to factor in the cost of EV charging.
The Electric Vehicle Free-For-All
So much for EV affordability vs. gasmobiles. The real action will take place as EV makers compete amongst each other for a piece of the zero mobility pie.
With the help of a battery range well above the 200-mile mark, Volkswagen is leaning heavily on the win-win of high performance with sustainability to hook the driving public on the ID.4.
“The new Volkswagen ID.4 AWD electric SUV revealed today will offer Americans yet another reason to embrace sustainable driving,” the company enthused last month. “With two electric motors, max 295 horsepower and an estimated 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds for the AWD Pro model, the ID.4 AWD offers performance and all-weather traction at a starting MSRP that no other all-wheel-drive electric vehicle for sale in the U.S. can beat.”
Scott Keogh, President and Chief Executive Officer of Volkswagen of America, threw in his two cents, emphasizing that “we’re committed to making EVs the default choice for Americans. The all-wheel-drive ID.4 merges the utility and zero-emissions driving delivered by the rear-wheel-drive vehicle with the performance from our sporty vehicles.”
As for performance, let’s have Volkswagen explain that:
“The variable all-wheel-drive system offers several benefits over traditional mechanical set-ups. The rear motor handles standard driving situations, leaving the front motor to engage only as needed, such as when the ID.4 senses wheelspin at any corner. The motors can react faster than any combustion engine—within a few hundredths of a second—so that the driver never notices the changes.”
When it comes to competing with US brands, Volkswagen has an edge over startups due to its name recognition. However, some of its many American fans may be tempted to join the rush to some of the most iconic names in US automotive history as new all-electric models roll off the assembly lines, Ford’s F-150 pickup truck and Mustang being just two examples.
That’s another area in which a good EV charging deal can help tip the balance, so let’s take a closer look at that.
The Fight For Hearts & Minds, EV Charging Edition
Volkswagen hopes to entice the buying public to the ID.4 with the help of the EV charging firm Electrify America, which happens to claim the title of biggest electric vehicle DC fast charging network in the US.
As if on cue, EA is delivering the goods for the ID.4.
Last April, EA announced that it reached an EV charging milestone of 600 stations within the past 3 years, for a total of 2,600 individual chargers. Now it is looking to fill in some of the gaps.
“Momentum continues with charging stations planned for Hawaii, South Dakota, Wyoming and Vermont, bringing ultra-fast chargers to 47 states and District of Columbia by early 2022,” the company stated, adding that the numbers will total 800 charging stations and approximately 3,500 individual chargers by the beginning of the year.
The Rise Of The DC Fast Charger
By the way, that thing about DC fast charging is important. Level 2 charging used to be considered pretty fast, but DC fast charging takes the pace down to 15-45 minutes rather than hours. That’s a key consideration for public charging stations, which are going to see a lot more traffic over the next few years. The less time to recharge, the less chance of getting into fights with the irate drivers waiting to recharge.
Drivers who can charge up at home might not be so interested in all this public fast charging station stuff, until they take a look at the price tag for installing a DC fast-charging station in their garage.
Also, drivers who currently depend on coal or natural gas in their grid mix may be able to reduce those impacts by using EA’s public charging station network. EA has begun to introduce off grid, 100% solar powered charging stations to its stable, and some of its grid-connected stations deploy on site solar plus storage to light the carbon load.
What Is This Electrify America Of Which You Speak?
EA seems bent on making up for lost time. On top of last April’s announcement, in July the company dropped word that it expects to hit the 1,800 station milestone within five years, totaling 10,000 individual chargers.
“The announcement today expands Electrify America’s previous commitment to invest $2 billion over 10 years in Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure, education, and access in the U.S.,” EA explained, hinting at its origin story.
The latest iteration of EA’s electrification plan adds the upper Midwest to its existing cross-country and coastal routes, among other enhancements.
Visitors from the US to Canada can also expect more activity there from EA’s sister company, Electrify Canada.
No word yet on any future plans regarding the other border neighbor of Mexico, but in consideration of the potential for cross border electricity integration, perhaps the EA model will travel to Mexico one of these days, wall or no wall.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: ID.4 EV courtesy of VW.
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