By on February 22, 2016

2015 VW e-Golf

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?

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, Exterior, Hybrid Badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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.

Volkswagen BUDD-e Concept, Virtual Cutaway

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.

Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active Concept, Virtual Cutaway

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.

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62 Comments on “EPA Asks Volkswagen to Build Electric Vehicles in US, But What Could It Build?...”

  • avatar

    Seemed like this was happening anyway. Just can’t imagine VW group promoting diesels anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar

      Just over 5 months since the news broke and I’d have to agree. VW is tainted, and TDI is *really* tainted in the minds of a lot of people, TDI enthusiasts included.

      VW keeps saying they’re going to continue on with diesel technology, but I don’t think there’s any point even if they can get approval to sell TDIs again in the U.S.

  • avatar

    Any word on how long the EPA proposes that VW build electric vehicles here before they have completed their penance? (I’m a cradle Catholic, this proposal strikes me as – “Now say 15 Hail Mary’s and try not to sin again.”)

    • 0 avatar

      OMG, yes! I, too, was whisked back to the creepy confines of the confessional booth.

      This is SO catholic, pretending to punish you for something you pretended to do. Doesn’t begin to touch the real “offense” and if it did you’d just say Eff the Church and leave.

      It’s just all about the public reaffirmation of public authority. And then we go right back to the masturbating, porn and spying on older sisters’ friends we never owned up to in the first place!

    • 0 avatar

      PrincipalDan – funny… more like 150,000 voltenMary’s and you penance is done.

      Unless you are caught lusting after the cute Prius in the choir.

  • avatar

    So what’s EPA gonna do about the remaining TDIs if VAG and it reach an agreement on electrification?

  • avatar

    Agreed, it sounds like it will be “build at least 5000 units for 10 years” or something like that. And VW will end up building the exact minimum required…

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    For a zero down, sub $200 month, unlimited mileage lease, I would gladly get into one of those 5000 electric VWs. Can I put my name on a waiting list at the EPA?

  • avatar

    Building electric vehicles is one thing. Persuading customers to buy them is another. Until manufacturers can combine 300 mile range with 5 minute recharging time, electric vehicles will not be competitive with fossil fuel vehicles. Hybrids would be marketable although VW might have to eat the extra cost of production.

    • 0 avatar

      While 300 mile range would help (and coming after 2020), a 5 minute charging time is totally unnecessary. If you’re charging at home every night, you’d only see a charger on long trips. Personally, with a 300 mile range, I’d never have to visit a public charger based on 27k miles worth of EV driving that I’ve done.

      I have a 100+ mile range EV and I only really need public charging on rare occasions. Most of my public charging is done at a favorite breakfast place – and I really don’t need to do it.

      • 0 avatar

        My wife and I live in Omaha, Nebraska. We have relatives east of Saint Louis (450 miles) and in central Colorado (550 to 600 miles). My boyhood home was in southern Ontario, Canada (900 miles). With a 300 mile range and long recharging time, Saint Louis would be a 1-1/2 day trip instead of 7 hours, Colorado would be a 2 day trip instead of 9 hours and Ontario would be a 3 day trip instead of 14 hours.

        Most days, we could get by with a 100 mile range although, before we retired, there were a few 90 mile days. Last weekend, I attended an event 40 miles from home. That’s within range but we wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere else without recharging.

        The result is that, until recharging times are greatly shortened, electric vehicles are extra cars good only for local trips. To go a long distance in a reasonable time, you still need something powered by a fossil fuel. The closest thing to a practical, long range electric vehicle is a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt.

      • 0 avatar

        Newsflash. Many people park on the street. Many other people are renters who can’t or won’t spend thousands of dollars to install a high-voltage charger on somebody else’s property.

        Until the refueling time gets at least close to parity with filling a fuel tank, battery-electric cars are and will remain primarily a niche luxury vehicle for suburban homeowners.

        • 0 avatar

          @RideHeight: Maybe, but his life seems to have been gloriously devoid of crowding!

          As a resident of the wide open spaces, I concur.

          @Steve65:Newsflash. Many people park on the street. Many other people are renters who can’t or won’t spend thousands of dollars to install a high-voltage charger on somebody else’s property.

          Agreed. Somehow, our sanctimonious, faux-outraged, city-dwelling counterparts have somehow missed that memo.

          Well done, gentlemen!

  • avatar

    The EPA would inflict a slow death on VW rather than just fine them out of existence. No money to be made, nothing but a loss on every unit.

    You can forget about future subsidies to build and sell electrics. The political climate is about to change. Dramatically.

    • 0 avatar

      With or without political change, the subsidies are expiring soon anyway. Most battery makers are moving new generations of batteries that are cheaper and denser from the lab into production and we should start seeing them around 2020.

    • 0 avatar

      Whiskey, I don’t understand your comment. Exactly what political change are you sure is about to happen that will undermine the current level of support for electric vehicles?

      • 0 avatar

        Politics vary, but they won’t stop the pace of technological change.

        I really wish that everyone who whines about subsidies for electric vehicles had the intellectual integrity to question why the US so aggressively subsidizes the oil industry.

        • 0 avatar

          Whine? Really? See if you can count all the digits in this number without using your fingers and toes:


          That’s the federal debt in dollars as of about 5 minutes ago. And that number increases by $2726 each and every second. This madness will stop, one way or another. Either we set our politicians straight or we go bankrupt.

          So, yeah. This political climate if going to be changing, and soon. Goodbye subsidies.

          • 0 avatar

            Actually we have no problem with paying our debt, it’s more an issue of stopping the deficit which has been getting there. But thanks for the staggeringly pointless number as a scare tactic.

            Funny how conservatives only get upset about the debt when they’re out of power…

          • 0 avatar

            Funny how liberals think they will never run out of someone else’s money.

          • 0 avatar

            The federal debt, less the assets accumulated by the Fed (think QE) has remained a steady % of GDP for the last 6 years.

            I would welcome an end to oil industry subsidies. I would also welcome an end to the need to import oil, so we can stop losing so many soldiers protecting Gulf Oil.

            Liberals didn’t create oil industry subsidies.

          • 0 avatar

            Xeranar – too true.


            There needs to be a balance.

            The “right” likes to push neoliberal policy which helps capitalists and the top end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

            Those at the mid to lower 1/3 suffer.That fact is well proven. In other words it hurts the bulk of those who support it i.e. rural,poor, white,Christian, male,and uneducated.

            The irony…. the irony.

            If you don’t believe me, google Republican Demographics.

          • 0 avatar

            Cobrajet – It’s my money too and I actually understand the basics of state debt financing, do you? It suggests you don’t since my original point was not that the debt is a problem (it is, having to pay it takes away from structural improvements and commonwealth benefits) but that the debt isn’t a problem the way the deficit is or rather that conservatives had no argument as to why when Bush cut taxes and ballooned both the deficit and debt the Republicans and conservatives cheered.

            Unless you subscribe to the argument of ‘starve the beast’ which has been proven counterfactual (never mind again, you need to pay down the debt) then what argument do you have?

            Ideally we can do away with the labels ‘tax and spend’ because they really are idiotic labels designed to draw ire because the people who respond to them fundamentally dislike not the acts but who those acts benefits: perceptional not them. When you can come up with economic theory backed arguments of where you shrink the government I’ll listen but practically nobody working in governmental finance has found reductions beyond about 5% of overall spending to be effective without reduction in services unless you go after military spending but even then they tend to argue a shift in spending. That is, moving that spending from trillion-dollar jet programs to paying for college for all, improving our K-12 system and refinancing our debt to retire higher bonds to lower bonds during this doldrums period.

            EDIT: Also thank you Lou, you’re not just man’s best friend, you’re my best liberal friend here.

            On topic: Yeah, look at Trump’s economic policies and then his base. He talks a good game and not a single policy would benefit them for the most part.

          • 0 avatar

            “Goodbye subsidies.”

            Which ones, EV, oil industry, agricultural/ethanol subsidies, tax loopholes, … ?

            It would be funny to see how PAC money dries up for anyone who vows to eliminate subsidies, especially the long-standing ones. No-ones likes to have the govt tit taken away, and most businesses have that built into their business model. There is no such thing as a free market. Everyone relies on a market of skewed incentives and interventions to effect a certain goal.

            In a vacuum any one issue (debt, deficit, jobs) is an obvious problem and somehow very simple to solve. In reality, you need deep knowledge, education and the willingness to co-operate. Consensus is the best and hardest thing you can aim for in a democracy.

          • 0 avatar

            “But thanks for the staggeringly pointless number as a scare tactic.”

            You guys are so predicable. This is all Bush’s fault, isn’t it?

            For the record, I didn’t say enough. ALL subsidies will vanish. Insert your favorite subsidy here and wave goodbye to it.

          • 0 avatar

            WHiskeyRiver – Given the basic facts, yes, it is mostly Bush’s fault. Pretty much half of that debt total is squarely on him. You can’t cut taxes on the wealthy, start two wars, and expect them to pay for themselves. So whether you want to believe or not independent facts clearly state you’re wrong and should be ashamed of yourself for trying to argue otherwise.

            I hate using the cliches like this but you’re simply not entitled to your own facts, goober. We can debate until the cows come home whether or not taxation and spending practices on individual items are good or bad but the outcomes we can measure with empirical data and validate using math. Bush did most of that debt and prior to that Reagan did a good chunk of it. Pretty much Republican presidents have soared our national debt by advancing spending programs while refusing to advance taxation. You can’t have one without the other.


          • 0 avatar

            Somebody needs to put down the whiskey and write “The federal government is not a household” 100 times on the chalkboard.

      • 0 avatar

        tonycd – Ah yes, the next great white hope, a worthy successor to the throne left by Ronny Raygun………. the new Comb-over-in-Chief.

        He will deport Mexicans ensuring the only Christians left are white uneducated to vote Repub,
        He will tear up NAFTA sodomizing Canada despite his homophobia,
        and nuke dem dare AyeRabb’s to Allah rendering all that MiddleEast oil useless and thus stabilizing oil prices,
        and ban AyeRabb’s so only Americans with guns can kill other Americans,
        and kill CAFE/EPA so we can all enjoy 70’s era land barges while allowing for those Ruskies and Canadians beach front property in the Arctic. (or he will buy up and build golf courses and more Trump towers)

        and on the 7th day he will rest.

        Oh, for those Trump fans, i was deliberately being sarcastic.

    • 0 avatar

      No subsides for VW or for VW buyers. VW burned that bridge. What ever the market will bear, that’s the price.

    • 0 avatar


      “I hate using the cliches like this but you’re simply not entitled to your own facts, goober.”

      This conversation has devolved far enough. You’ve proven to me who you are. You’re a liberal elite, you can’t accept real numbers, you’re holier than thou, you’re smarter than everyone else, you’ll bend any number to suit your position, and you’ll argue the indefensible. Thanks for making it so clear who you and your buddy Lou are.

      CobraJet has you pegged. You LOVE spending other people’s money. After all, we’re just “goobers” and we don’t know the best way to handle our money anyway.

      I’m done with this conversation. Sorry to everyone for letting these two get so far under my skin.

      • 0 avatar

        So you respond to a personal attack with a personal attack?

      • 0 avatar

        In other words you’re declining to accept the math and facts of the situation to validate your own conviction to ideology. I’ve actually taken a fairly neutral stance to explain the position. Do I believe we should raise taxes not only to pay off the debt and increase services? For sure. But that has no impact on the fact that Republicans in congress & the presidency expanded our federal debt to exceptional levels due to a tax cut that benefited nobody but the top-10% to any great effect and then fought two wars declining to raise taxes to replace those dollars.

        Using that as cover to cut programs they disliked (most of them being social welfare and commonwealth programs that benefited whites more overall but minorities disproportionately) is the exact reality of the situation. They chose ideology over substance and your remarks follow that. It’s easy to say ‘well you like spending somebody else’s money’ because it disenfranchises my identity and in all probability I pay as much if not more taxes than half the B&B. Never mind that in the same meme-level of discussion I would point out that you like cutting other people’s programs. You aren’t interested in denying programs that may benefit you but would gladly throw the poor and middle-class down a well to shave a few pennies on your tax return.

        You brought this epic smackdown upon yourself with your own refusal to acknowledge that your ideology is flawed at its core. Playing off the faux martyr view because you got called a goober than trying to play out a ‘working class’ identity because I’m a white collar academic (when in all likelihood you’re a white collar management type) is even more ironic. Just stop talking, you got told the basic facts of the situation no credible source can deny and you went full steam ahead into finger stuffing and pretending your world view isn’t flawed.

        I take pity on you but I’ll be damned if I let you get away with lies.

  • avatar

    I doubt anything will be done for the current Passat, maybe hybrid running gear will be part of the next round of revisions/updates to the US only car.

  • avatar

    “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.”

    And at what price would a Tiguan AWD hybrid come in at? I would imagine that you would have to buy the tarted up version (SEL) to get the hybrid option (as is SOP w/several other manufacturers), so maybe north of $40K? That’s gonna be a hard sell to Active Dad & Safety Mom when ~$40K will get you an Evoque, GLC or Q5 (all of which have more elementary school parking lot cachet than a Tiguan).

    A hybrid Tiguan w/AWD will simply be another low volume, soon-to-be-orphaned vehicle in the vein of so many other VW offerings. Americans don’t want to pay Audi money for a highly optioned Volkswagon, especially when the people who can afford a $40K Tiguan can most likely pony up an additional $5-10K of debt to get another German offering.

    Of course, a handful of oddballs would probably still buy a Tiguan hybrid, price premium be damned. Hopefully they’ll get decent trade-in value on their Routans…

  • avatar

    VW could build the Voltwagen.

    Remember the Routan?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    So, is the EPA applying leverage on VW “legally” to produce EVs in the US for lighter penalties? Is this the real story?

    VW could tell the EPA to go take a hike, I would.

    The problem with EVs is not only range, but the inflexibility to use them on a continuous basis due to the charge times required.

    EVs are not the answer. The billions of taxpayer dollars thrown at EVs is just a waste to placate the feel good middle class in our societies.

    The government should just create regulation and watch what the private sector does to meet the challenges. The governments role is not to select what it deems is the solution, then subsidise industry to meet it’s challenges.

    This is the problem with EVs. The only people who benefit is the large industrial welfare operators and feel good greenies with a good middle class income or higher.

    It the EPA was really seriously concerned about emissions it would of had a set of better targeted regulations.

    It seems to me the EPA is involved to much here in the politics of industry. Trying to shape US industry into what it wants.

    Is this a free economy?

    • 0 avatar

      Such an agreement may simply allow for both sides to save face. EPA gets to look tough, Chattanooga gets some product, VWoA gets to look green, “sorry”, and probably gets a reduced fine.

    • 0 avatar

      A mainstream plugin hybrid such as a Volt instantly defeats your made up objections. Now if only US automakers such as GM or Tesla made their drivetrains available to other automakers. Oh wait, I see what you did there….

    • 0 avatar

      Big Al from Oz –

      Go tell the EPA to take a hike.

      See what happens?

      In your case sweet f^ck all but in VW’s case………

      “It seems to me the EPA is involved to much here in the politics of industry.”


      Politics, Industry, Economics, Social Programs etc………..

      Since when are they separate?

      “Is this a free economy?”

      Quiz of the day……..

      Name 1 completely free economy!

      • 0 avatar

        The EPA is offering VW a freebie. It’s still a penalty, but much less severe than what’s behind Door #2. Sort of a win/win for everyone involved. If VW was smart, they would grab it and run with it.

  • avatar

    Sounds like VAG would be better served getting into bed with Tesla and their new battery factory to supply batteries for a hybrid that was equipped with one of their ultra-small engines. 1L engine + modest battery pack in a jetta for about 22K would be a worthwhile purchase. Pretty much going straight after the prius market which has proven a viable place to go after. Especially if they would think about equipping the Passat as well. That car is spacious and well worth slinging a pack into. Maybe even use their planned attack at a mid-size SUV as a platform for HEV-only. Stand out from the pack and essentially price themselves at a small premium but give mileage on par with a compact car.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with the Prius market is that yoube got to beat the Prius at its own game in order to be taken seriously.

      I will celebrate when that happens (because more interested in efficient and reliable vehicles than I am in brand loyalty), but it hasn’t happened yet – because the Prius is really really well optimized for what it is.

  • avatar

    What size is the conveniently omitted Leaf? A or B or… I really don’t know, but they serm small to me. If they use fines to pay the subsidies, and force them to be US made… Eh, if you want to dream about a large electric VAG, who am I to stop you.

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