What's it like to drive a newly minted Volkswagen electric SUV across the United States in a 35,000-mile road trip?
Long-distance driver Rainer Zietlow, who stopped at Volkswagen Chattanooga on Friday, said the ID.4 SUV has done "super." But there have been a couple of anxious moments out West when it came to keeping a charge in the vehicle's batteries, he said.
More recharging stations are needed from Denver traveling west, he said, especially singling out the Casper, Wyoming, area.
Zietlow is visiting more than 600 Volkswagen dealerships in 48 states, and so far he has 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, teamed up Zietlow for the challenge.
Zietlow, who has undertaken 17 long-distance projects worldwide since 2005 in Volkswagen vehicles and holds three Guinness world records, said he wanted to stop by the Chattanooga plant that will start assembly of the ID.4 next year.
"The factory has grown," he said, since he last visited in 2011.
Zietlow said VW is proving it can build electric vehicles, and he's encouraged by plans for EV production in Chattanooga.
He said some dealers where he has stopped shared issues they've had with the ID.4, but he lauded the vehicle.
Zietlow said he and driving partner Derek Collins have made use of more than 200 Electrify America charging stations so far.
Electrify America has more than 635 charging stations and more than 2,700 individual DC fast-chargers, according to the company. It has plans for a total of 800 charging stations and about 3,500 DC fast chargers open or under development by the end of the year.
The ID.4 1st Edition and Pro S rear-wheel-drive models have an EPA-estimated range of 250 miles, according to VW. The automaker said the ID.4 can recharge from 5% to 80% capacity in 38 minutes at a public DC fast-charger.
Tom du Plessis, Volkswagen Chattanooga's chief executive, said the plant is on target for ID.4 production to start 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. Currently the SUV is produced in Germany.
The VW Chattanooga CEO said the plant is managing assembly of the Passat sedan and Atlas SUVs amid the global computer chip shortage, though it has limited overtime. He said the company will prioritize chips for the ID.4 when its production starts.
Lars Ullrich, vice president of marketing for chip maker Infineon, said Friday that each ID.4 has more than 50 of its chips. In all, the SUV has more than 700 computer chips, he said.
The company in September opened a new factory in Austria to help meet global demand, Ullrich said. But he expects supply to remain tight into 2022 and potentially into 2023.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.