EPA Asks Volkswagen to Build Electric Vehicles in US, But What Could It Build?

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
epa asks volkswagen to build electric vehicles in us but what i could i it build

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.

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7 of 62 comments
  • Xeranar Xeranar on Feb 22, 2016

    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.

    • Luke42 Luke42 on Feb 23, 2016

      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.

  • 05lgt 05lgt on Feb 22, 2016

    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.

  • Analoggrotto Too bad they don't sell Kia Telluride, the greatest selling vehicle in it's class over the pond in the UK who burned Washington DC down but that's ok.
  • Zerofoo There's a joke here somewhere about Tim's used car recommendations, Tassos, and death traps.
  • Tassos Subaru really knows how to take fugly to ever higher levels, and sell every one of the (of course very few) it makes. As if the number of sales negates the fugliness.Don't hold your breath. I bet this will NOT be the vehicle James Bond arrives at the Casino in Monte Carlo with in his next flick. (if any)
  • ToolGuy Government overreach. Park the Ford in your air-conditioned garage on a maintenance charger and this won't be a problem.Here's some (old) general background if you are interested.@ILO, there are 3 Fords, and Ford Pro™ is the one with the bright future 🙂
  • ToolGuy No harm no foul (no one died), business is business, yada yada. Why must everyone pick on dealers?-this post dedicated to Ruggles