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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Mike Purcell stands in front of his Volkswagen ID.4 at his office at Re/Max Renaissance Realtors last week in Chattanooga. Purcell is one of the first in the city to own the electric SUV.

Hamilton County real estate broker Mike Purcell says he's a car guy.

He likes sports cars, muscle cars and has always thought that electric vehicles were "interesting, intriguing and cool," he said.

Purcell is one of the first buyers in Chattanooga of a Volkswagen ID.4, the battery-powered SUV that last month launched in the United States.

The ID.4 is his daily driver and he's using it just as "a regular car," he said.

"It's not a gimmick. It's a practical vehicle," Purcell said. "I sell real estate. I'm out showing property and putting up signs and doing normal business."

While he had never owned a Volkswagen, he said he was attracted to the idea that a traditional car company was coming to market with an electric compact SUV.

Purcell drove off the Village Volkswagen of Chattanooga lot with a "First Edition" model of the SUV, which is already sold out. He said he watched last year on Facebook when VW officials made a live video presentation on the vehicle and opened up its website to take orders.

He put down $100 to reserve an ID.4. While the First Edition has an electric motor at each rear wheel, he said he wanted an all-wheel drive version. But Purcell said he later learned that model would be delayed until late this year.

At the same time, someone who ordered a First Edition decided to purchase another EV, an Audi e-tron, and his salesman at Village Volkswagen called Purcell to ask if he was interested.

"I said 'I really like this.' The things I thought would be objections were not," he said, such as the white steering wheel on the First Edition. Also, while he likes vehicles which are white on the exterior, the EV he bought is blue.

Purcell said he's "real impressed" with the vehicle, which is made in Germany though production will move to VW's Chattanooga assembly plant in 2022.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Mike Purcell shows what's under the hood of his Volkswagen ID.4. Purcell is one of the first in Chattanooga to own the battery-powered compact SUV.

"It's incredible," he said. "I can't believe the technology."

Purcell said that it will probably be a month before he figures it all its subtleties.

"They've thought of so much," he said.

He has already had installed a Level 2 charger at his residence where he can refuel the vehicle's batteries.

"It's a piece of cake," Purcell said, adding that it's likely he won't have to recharge the vehicle each night because it has a range of about 250 miles and he doesn't drive that much daily.

But he said that it's range anxiety that probably will keep some buyers away from EVs.

"I can see where people would be concerned if they don't have a charger," Purcell said. Still, with the purchase of the ID.4, he's receiving three years of free charging from Electrify America, a VW subsidiary that's installing super-chargers at public locations across the U.S.

Purcell also cited the cost, which will be about $40,000 for the new versions of the ID.4. At the same time, buyers can receive up to a $7,500 federal tax credit to put it more in line with traditional, well-appointed compact SUVs, according to VW.

The business news website Seeking Alpha has reported that Volkswagen is planning to deliver around 150,000 ID.4 vehicles worldwide this year, and that the automaker plans to launch at least one new fully electric model annually in coming years.

Mark Gillies, senior manager for product and technology communications for Volkswagen of America, said that while some people indicate that VW's interest in EVs was driven by the fallout of Dieselgate, the company was already working on battery-powered platform to meet clean-air requirements.

"Dieselgate sped up the adoption," he said about the cheating scandal in which the automaker tried to fool the federal government when it came to fuel efficiency standards.

Gillies said that one feature that's expected to drive the adoption of zero-emission EVs is young people and their concerns about climate change. He said a survey shows that 82% of parents believe their children should be taught about climate change.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / The ID.4 badge is shown on the lift gate of Mike Purcell's Volkswagen electric SUV.
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