Driver on a 35,000 mile road trip in a Volkswagen electric SUV checks in at the Chattanooga plant
What is it like to drive a 35,000-mile road trip across the United States in a newly minted Volkswagen electric SUV?
Long-distance driver Rainer Zietlow, who stopped at Volkswagen Chattanooga on Friday, said the ID.4 SUV was “great”. But there were a few anxious moments in the west when it came to charging the vehicle’s batteries, he said.
More charging points are needed from Denver traveling west, he said, particularly in the Casper, Wyoming area.
Zietlow visits more than 600 Volkswagen dealerships in 48 states and has so far driven more than 32,204 miles and crossed 46 states. Volkswagen of America, Volkswagen Credit Inc. and Electrify America, a VW subsidiary that installs charging stations, have teamed up with Zietlow for the challenge.
Zietlow, who has completed 17 long-haul projects with Volkswagen vehicles around the world since 2005 and holds three Guinness world records, said he wanted to stop by the Chattanooga plant, which will begin assembling the ID.4 next year.
“The factory has grown,” he said since his last visit in 2011.
Zietlow said VW is proving it can build electric vehicles and he is encouraged by the plans to build electric cars in Chattanooga.
He said some dealerships he stopped at shared issues with the ID.4, but he praised the vehicle.
Zietlow said he and his driving partner Derek Collins have used more than 200 Electrify America charging points to date.
Electrify America has more than 635 charging stations and more than 2,700 individual DC fast chargers, according to the company. A total of 800 charging stations and around 3,500 DC fast chargers are planned or in development by the end of the year.
The rear-wheel drive ID.4 1st Edition and Pro S models have an EPA estimated range of 250 miles, according to VW. The automaker said the ID.4 can be charged from 5% to 80% in 38 minutes on a public high-speed DC charger.
Tom du Plessis, chairman of the board of directors of Volkswagen Chattanooga, said the plant is on schedule to start ID.4 production in the second half of next year. VW invested another $ 800 million to expand the body shop and create a battery assembly facility for the ID.4. The SUV is currently being produced in Germany.
VW Chattanooga CEO said the plant is directing assembly of the Passat sedan and Atlas SUVs amid the global shortage of computer chips, even though it has limited overtime. He said the company will prioritize chips for the ID.4 when production begins.
Lars Ullrich, vice president of marketing at chip maker Infineon, said on Friday that each ID.4 has more than 50 of its chips. In total, the SUV has more than 700 computer chips, he said.
The company opened a new plant in Austria in September to meet global demand, said Ullrich. However, he expects supply to remain tight until 2022 and possibly until 2023.
Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.