The Environmental Protection Agency has asked Volkswagen to build electric vehicles in the United States as part of an effort to make up for nearly 600,000 illegally polluting diesels, reported German newspaper Welt am Sonntag (via Automotive News).
The proposal, if accepted by both parties, could bring electric vehicle production to Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which currently produces gasoline and diesel versions of the Volkswagen Passat and is slated to build a three-row midsize SUV by the end of 2016.
But what electric vehicles could Volkswagen build in the United States?
Currently, the Volkswagen brand sells only the fully-electric e-Golf and a turbocharged hybrid version of the Jetta in the U.S. Those models are assembled in Wolfsburg, Germany, and Puebla, Mexico, respectively. Neither of them, nor their traditional gas and diesel counterparts, are assembled in Chattanooga. (In Canada, customers can only get the Jetta as the e-Golf is not available.)
Additionally, Volkswagen is on an electric-vehicle-concept craze. You’re more likely to bump into multiple electric vehicle concepts in VW’s auto show booths than you are a diesel model — for obvious reasons. Since the scandal broke, VW revealed its BUDD-e concept at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, then a plug-in, hybrid, off-road-flavored Tiguan GTE in Detroit in January.
The BUDD-e is based on a new electric vehicle architecture that may later find its way into more mainstream A- and B-segment products, even if the BUDD-e concept itself doesn’t ever see an assembly line. However, there’s a problem with that: A- and B-segment vehicles haven’t traditionally thrived in the United States. One only needs to look at the Smart Fortwo, Scion iQ, and the numerous other microcars that have come to American shores only to be vanquished by larger vehicles that better fit the American way of life. Even Volkswagen leaves its smaller Polo in Europe for that very reason.
The Tiguan concept, on the other hand, hints at the birth of a real-world hybrid — minus the off-road bits — in a size that most American families see as useful, and with all-wheel drive to boot.
The similarities between the Tiguan GTE plug-in hybrid concept, Chattanooga’s soon-to-be-produced three-row crossover, and the next-generation Passat, bring options into focus: all will be MQB — the same as the e-Golf.
Does that mean we could see a hybrid Passat or three-row crossover? Or could Volkswagen bring one of its already existing fully electric vehicles to the United States after Chattanooga is fully tooled-up for MQB crossover production? We don’t know, but possibilities exist.
Regardless, VW is up against the toughest of crowds when it comes to the EPA.
A previous plan presented to the EPA to fix VW’s 2-liter EA189 diesels was rejected in January. Volkswagen has also submitted a plan to fix its illegally polluting 3-liter diesel engines, but the EPA has yet to decide either way on that proposal.