Volkswagen Has Big Plans for Huge Utility

Volkswagen of America is working to completely revamp the company’s transportation fleet.

During the 1932 presidential campaign, Franklin Roosevelt made no secret of his disdain for private utilities, saying that they had “selfish purposes.”

“Never shall the federal government part with its sovereignty or with its control of its power resources while I’m president of the United States,” FDR declared.

Replacing the Carbon Emitting Fleet

A year later, the Tennessee Valley Authority was created by Congress as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal with the initial purpose to provide, navigation, flood control, electricity generation, regional planning, and other vital services.

The TVA, the sixth largest power supplier and largest public utility in the country, is headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn. with a service area that covers all of Tennessee, portions of Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky, and small areas of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

A lot has changed since FDR’s day, including modes of transportation. And now the utility corporation has set a goal of operating a 100% electric sedan and SUV fleet by 2030.

The utility wants to replace its carbon emitting vehicle fleet with nearly 400 light-duty and 800 medium-duty EVs and add more than 300 charging stations at TVA locations.

The TVA is collaborating with Volkswagen on a year-long test using the automaker’s ID.4 EV to analyze capabilities and various applications of vehicle usage, Volkswagen of America said.

Released in 2021, the ID.4 is Volkswagen’s most popular electric vehicle. The SUV is produced in Germany, China, and at the automaker’s plant in Chattanooga, TN.

Volkswagen said it will modify a production vehicle and temporarily loan TVA an ID.4 SUV enhanced with Volkswagen components and third-party accessories. Deliveries are due to start later this year.

‘A History of Innovation’

The “Mobile Drone Response Vehicle” will equip TVA test drivers for a number of real-world response scenarios, the automaker said. It features a trunk-housed custom storage unit for drone and field equipment and will be outfitted with a portable power station. 

To celebrate the partnership, Volkswagen also announced a second ID.4 vehicle with exterior graphics designed to boost visibility of the test fleet program

“TVA has a long history of innovation, and we’re thrilled to collaborate with them in their transition to a fully-electrified fleet,” Hein Schafer, senior vice president product marketing and strategy, Volkswagen of America, said in a statement. “This effort is leading by example, and with the aid of our ID.4 vehicles, stands to show industry how viable EVs are in fleet applications.”

This is not the first time TVA has worked with Volkswagen vehicles in e-mobility research. 

In  1978, the Electric Power Research Institute, an independent organization, selected  the TVA as the host utility company to perform field-testing and demonstration of electric vehicles. 

Five Volkswagen Kombi vans and five 8-passenger buses were purchased from Volkswagen and VW produced about 70 electric vans for fleet research. 

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