Volkswagen electric SUV to come with free charging, create need for Georgia battery supplier to hire 2,600

Staff file photo / Volkswagen employees work beneath vehicles moving down the assembly line at the VW factory in Chattanooga.

Owners of the new Volkswagen electric SUV that eventually will undergo assembly in Chattanooga can get free unlimited charging, according to Volkswagen of America.

Buyers of Volkswagen's 2021 ID.4 electric SUV will receive three years of unlimited charging on Electrify America's nationwide network of ultra-fast chargers at no additional cost to the vehicle's purchase price, the companies said Monday.

To increase range confidence, Volkswagen will provide ID.4 customers who lease or purchase the electric SUV with access to Electrify America's more than 470 charging stations and over 2,000 DC fast chargers, including a newly completed cross-country route to take electric vehicle drivers from Washington D.C. to L.A., the companies said.

The ID.4 will initially be produced in Germany. It will be built at VW's Chattanooga assembly plant by 2022, according to the automaker.

The battery-powered SUV is to be officially revealed by VW on Wednesday.

Electrify America is currently the only open, public charging network to offer chargers with power levels up to 350 kilowatts, the company said. Across the country, 96% of the population live within 120 miles of an Electrify America charger.

Volkswagen customers will be able to manage their charging plan through an app provided by Electrify America.

Giovanni Palazzo, president and chief executive officer of Electrify America, said that as more electric vehicles are introduced to the market and consumer interest grows, "we are excited to announce this agreement with Volkswagen to deliver fast and accessible charging to ID.4 customers and a new wave of EV adopters."

Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, said the ID.4 is engineered, loaded and priced "to win the hearts of SUV owners who are simply ready to go electric-and fall in love with Volkswagen again. By adding three years of fast charging at no additional cost through Electrify America, we are eliminating all barriers for mainstream compact SUV buyers to go electric."

To meet current and future demand, Electrify America continues to expand with plans to install or have under development about 800 total charging stations with about 3,500 DC fast chargers by December 2021.

VW is investing $800 million in Chattanooga to add space for production of the battery-powered SUV. The company has begun hiring about 150 more employees to fill posts related to ramping up EV production as well as assembly of the current Passat sedan and Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs.

The carmaker, in a presentation by top officials last week in Germany, said that by the end of 2025, a half million ID.4 SUVs are to roll off assembly lines in Chattanooga along with VW plants in Germany and China.

A company that plans to supply the batteries for the SUV in Chattanooga on Monday said its Georgia plant that's under construction has hired its first 60 employees. SK Innovation plans to create more than 1,000 jobs by the end of 2021 and over 2,600 jobs by 2024 at its Commerce, Georgia, factories.

At the same time, SK Innovation plans to have close to 200 people employed by the end of the 2020 at its operations in Commerce, which is about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta.

According to the South Korean company, it could invest as much as $5 billion and create 6,000 jobs at the site, making it one of the largest hubs of EV battery manufacturing in the world, if all goes to plan.

But in February, the U.S. International Trade Commission gave a preliminary ruling that SK Innovation had misappropriated trade secrets from crosstown rival LG Chem. The default judgment by the ITC could potentially mean SK Innovation cannot import some battery products it may need to supply Volkswagen, according to a Reuters news report.

The Korea Times reported that the trade court sided with LG Chem in its claim that SK Innovation attempted to destroy a wide range of evidence indicating that it stole confidential battery-making trade secrets.

The newspaper said that SK Innovation is trying to avoid an embargo on its EV battery products in the U.S. through reconciliation with LG Chem involving financial compensation. The ITC is set to make a final ruling in the case on Oct. 5, according to LG Chem.

Contact Mike Pare at Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

photo Contributed photo by Volkswagen / An image of the I.D.4 electric SUV, which will be produced in Chattanooga by 2022, is shown in front of the plant's Engineering and Planning Center.