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Photo contributed by Volkswagen / Volkswagen's ID.4 battery-powered SUV will have a range of about 250 miles.

Volkswagen is rolling out its first-ever electric SUV for sale in the United States this spring with the ID.4, which Volkswagen of America's chief executive predicts will win the hearts of car buyers and drive them to "fall in love with Volkswagen again."

Scott Keogh terms the ID.4 launch the company's most important since the Beetle, and says it will drive adoption of electric vehicles by mainstream buyers.

"That's where the daylight is," Keogh says. "We know if we get the price point right, we'll get adoption."

While the first units of the electric vehicle will come from Germany, Chattanooga-made ID.4s are slated to spin out of the automaker's Enterprise South industrial park assembly plant in 2022. Pre-series production of the battery-powered vehicle will begin in Chattanooga this year, according to officials.

The starting price is $39,995 for the ID.4 Pro before a potential $7,500 federal tax credit. With possible state incentives along with fuel savings, VW officials say the cost of a new ID.4 could go as low as $27,000. Once Volkswagen powers up a new assembly line from its $800 million plant expansion in Chattanooga and begins building the ID.4, the manufacturer's suggested retail price of the U.S.-made version is set for about $35,000, according to the automaker.

While battery-powered vehicle sales have climbed over the past decade, however, they only account for about 2% of the U.S. market, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

In a new report released in February, ACEEE called for ambitious state actions to ramp up deployment of light- and heavy-duty electric vehicles and to build out the necessary charging infrastructure.

"States can help remove many of the barriers to widespread EV adoption," the report states. "They can create supportive policy environments to reduce the higher upfront costs of EVs for both personal and fleet ownership, establish a comprehensive network of charging facilities, and encourage the creation of complementary utility programs to push EV uptake and maximize greenhouse gas reductions and societal benefits."

An ACEEE scorecard on how states are doing found that Tennessee has taken a number of key steps to encourage and enable residents to use electric vehicles, but adds that it should rapidly ramp up its efforts.

The state earned points for a grants program to support the purchase of new electric vehicles, including transit bus and local freight trucks, and for a non-binding goal to increase passenger vehicles to at least 200,000 by 2028, the report says.

But Tennessee missed on the lack of a statewide purchase incentive for passenger vehicles and limited goals or mandates for electric vehicle bus procurement by transit agencies, ACEEE says.

Volkswagen says the ID in its ID.4 stands for "intelligent design, identity and visionary technologies." The heart of the ID.4 is a battery pack comprised of 288 pouch cells in 12 modules. Those are positioned in the underbody to create a low center of gravity for optimal driving dynamics and well-balanced weight distribution, according to VW.

At launch, the ID.4 will be offered with an 82kWh battery and a rear-mounted motor with 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque, the company says. Volkswagen estimates the ID.4 1st Edition models will have a range of 250 miles with a full charge. An electric all-wheel-drive version will follow with 302 horsepower.

The ID.4 also comes with three years of fast charging with Electrify America, a VW subsidiary putting in vehicle chargers across the nation. Charges come at no additional cost to ID.4 buyers with the aim of helping to reduce range anxiety.

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Volkswagen's electric future

"This is an important feature of the car," says Dustin Krause, Volkswagen of America's director of e-mobility in North America.

He says the ID.4 can charge from zero to 80% in 30 to 40 minutes on Electrify America's 125kW chargers.

"It gives you the same kind of freedom to go anywhere you want to go," Krause says.

Electrify America has more than 500 stations around the country, with about 96% of the population living within 120 miles of one, he says.

"For many customers, it breaks down barriers of objections," Krause says. "When you're on the road, you have a solution to charge and not only a solution, but at no charge. We think it will certainly assist customers in making those decisions in which EV to go for."

Volkswagen is sourcing the batteries for its Chattanooga vehicles from SK Innovation, a South Korean company that is building a factory in Northeast Georgia.

When production of the electric SUV begins, officials say the Chattanooga plant, which employs about 3,800 workers, will have capacity to assemble more than 100,000 electric vehicles annually.

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