When I talk to prospective EV buyers on the street, I find that positive responses fall into two broad categories: 1) I like going really fast and boy do EVs rip!, and 2) EVs are so efficient that they enable me to travel with very little burden on my pocketbook or planet, especially if I drive moderately. The latest entry into our EV market will likely appeal most to the second group.
VW has announced that it will soon be shipping their ID.4 all-electric compact SUV to US buyers. Our closest VW dealership is Grand Junction VW (970 255-6677). There are already two SUV class cars in our area: the Tesla X full-size SUV ($80-100K) and the “compact” or “crossover” SUV Tesla Y ($50K and up). The AWD variant of the ID.4 (comparable to the Tesla Y in size and drive wheels) is projected to sell for about $45 K (before tax rebates) when it becomes available in 2021. The rear-wheel drive (RWD) variant of the VW.4 may start to arrive this year (2020). Because VW is new to the BEV market in the US, it is still eligible for a substantial federal tax rebate (up to $7500 as of now); buyers in Colorado are also eligible for a state tax rebate (up to $4000 presently). After rebates, the VW enjoys a substantial price advantage (up to about $15,000) over the Y. The other feature in which they differ is the ability to tow: the RWD ID.4 will tow up to 2100 pounds, the AWD ID.4 will tow up to 2700 pounds. The Y is not set up to tow. Frankly, I’m a bit skeptical that the RWD ID.4 (201 hp versus the 302 hp of the AWD version) could do justice to our mountain roads towing a 2100 pound trailer, but I also question why a year-round resident of Colorado would be happy with the slightly less expensive RWD version, when the AWD one is right around the corner. The range of the ID.4 is estimated to be 250 miles (I don’t believe the EPA assessment of range has been released); the Y variant currently for sale is EPA-rated at 316 miles, substantially better than the ID.4.
In other respects, the competing “compact SUVs” are fairly similar. Charging rates, storage capacity, and superb autopilot features are roughly the same. For example the ID.4’s cargo space is claimed to be 64.2 cubic feet (with the back seats down); that of Tesla’s Y is 68 cubic feet. VW does not claim over-the-air software upgrades. The VW comes with 3 years of free charging at Electrify America fast chargers (a rapidly expanding network, mostly along the interstate highways in Colorado); Tesla buyers have (paid) access to the Tesla network. On what basis might one choose? One Durango buyer prefers the VW because it is a “normal car which happens to be electric. Not an electric car that is made such that it doesn’t appear to the general public because of all the compromises.”
The VW has three features that worry me: 1) Across the full width of the dash the ID.4 has a light bar that flashes in various patterns to communicate, especially warnings, to the driver. If a deer runs across the road in front of me, the last thing I would want is for the whole dashboard to start flashing and draw my attention away from the road. 2) The VW is very reliant on touch screens, as opposed to knobs and switches. I have a lot of trouble with touch screens at the best of times, and they are a particular annoyance in the winter when I might be wearing gloves that do not conduct electricity. For example, the VW has a touch screen on the driver’s arm rest to select whether a tap applies to opening the rear windows or the front windows. I don’t want to have to look down at the armrest while I’m driving; I want to feel for the pattern of switches and choose the appropriate one. 3) The rear brakes on the VW are drum brakes, not disks. In our mountains, especially when towing, I would be more comfortable with disk brakes all around. VW says the drums facilitate regenerative braking.
Finally, a few niggling details about charging. VW prominently notes that the ID.4 can charge from 5% to 80% of full charge state in 38 minutes. This is true when using a sufficiently powerful fast charger (125 kW), but buyers should be aware that they might not always have such a capable charger. For example, the new fast chargers planned for downtown Durango (and at 50 mile intervals along US 285 to Denver) are rated at 125 KW if a single car is attached, but only 62.5 kW if two cars are hooked up at the same time. Similarly, at home the promised charging rate (11 kW) requires a 50 Amp circuit, but many homes do not have such a circuit. If the 82 kWh battery in the ID.4 were completely exhausted prior to recharging with a home 11 kW charger, it would take about 8 hours for a full charge, but if your home supported only a 30 Amp circuit, the maximum charging rate would likely be about 5.8 kW, requiring 15-16 hours for a full charge. At the present time, when charging rates are not standardized or well understood, it is prudent to do some wiring “homework” prior to taking the manufacturers’ claims of charging rates at face value.
Overall the ID.4 (and Tesla Y) are solid “compact” SUVs that will power drivers through most snowy and mountainous driving year round in our area. Neither is a candidate for off-roading. Either could replace an aging Subaru that is unavailable in electric. The Y has a little more range and a little bigger price tag. The ID.4 will tow.