2021 VW ID.4 promises free charging in US

Volkswagen is leaving nothing to chance when it comes to the success of the upcoming 2021 VW ID.4 all-electric crossover, borrowing a successful Tesla charging strategy to encourage potential owners. Set to debut in the US latest this year, the ID.4 compact SUV will come with unlimited charging on Electrify America's network, Volkswagen said today.

The promotion will last for three years, VW says, and will be available for both those who purchase or lease their ID.4. It'll include access to Electrify America's DC fast chargers, which the network says currently number more than 2,000 across the US.

In terms of coverage, there are 470+ different charging locations, and Electrify America says that 96-percent of the US population live within 120 miles of one of its chargers. Although exact charging capabilities vary according to infrastructure, Electrify America's fastest locations offer up to 350 kW support. Of course, that also requires a vehicle which can handle that sort of power delivery: the ID.4 is expected to top out at 150 kW, at least initially.

It's a clever strategy, given range anxiety remains one of the biggest hurdles potential EV owners need to overcome. Although the statistics show that the vast majority of electric vehicle charging takes place at home or at a workplace, being able to top up while on the move is an important psychological reassurance too. It also promises to be a compelling perk, as Tesla discovered with its Supercharger network.

In the early days of the Model S and Model X, bundled Supercharger access proved to be a popular selling tool to encourage early-adopters to switch from their traditional vehicles. Tesla has since switched to a pay-per-use system, occasional promotions aside, as sales momentum has proved self-sustaining even without the promise of free charging.

For VW, it's a somewhat strange arrangement. The automaker actually owns Electrify America itself, having set the charging network up as part of its "Dieselgate" settlement. That has seen it invest billions of dollars into the DC fast charging network, with a goal of around 800 charging stations – and 3,500 chargers between them – by December 2021.

Electrify America operates as a standalone business, however, hence today's deal between it and VW of America. It also has agreements with a number of other automakers: Lucid's Air, for example, will also enjoy free Electrify America charging when it goes on sale next year. Individual drivers can also sign up for an account, to charge their own vehicle even without a manufacturer-level agreement.

There's a little small print to bear in mind, as you might expect. The inclusive charging is non-transferable, VW says, and won't be available for commercial use: if you're trying to use your ID.4 for ridesharing, for instance, that's not permitted. After ten minutes idle – either because the charging session was completed, or manually ended – there'll be Idle Fees due for occupying a charging spot that someone else could otherwise be using.

It's not the first time we've seen VW take a leaf out of Tesla's playbook as it readies the 2021 ID.4. Back in August, Volkswagen revealed the new online configurator system it had constructed, aiming to try to replicate for ID.4 some of the reservations success that Tesla has become synonymous with.