How all-wheel drive goes electric in the Volkswagen ID.4 SUV

As long as there have been automobiles, there have been ideas about getting power to the road through all four wheels. As early as 1899, Ferdinand Porsche was experimenting with a gas-electric hybrid vehicle that featured electric motors powering each wheel.

Today, all-wheel-drive or four-wheel drive models make up almost 50 percent of the vehicles sold in America, as drivers prefer the capability of traction in poor weather — even if they only use it rarely. Yet all-wheel drive hasn’t been common among non-luxury electric vehicles, and the need for cold-weather assurance has kept some people who might otherwise embrace EVs from making the switch.

The all-wheel-drive version of the Volkswagen ID.4 SUV could change that. With dual electric motors at the front and rear axles, the ID.4 AWD will offer more power, more performance and more grip than its rear-wheel-drive version – and, with the ID.4 AWD Pro, the lowest starting MSRP of any fully electric all-wheel-drive vehicle  for sale in America today.

The key to the system comes from a new electric motor on the front axle of the ID.4 AWD. The rear-axle motor, a permanent magnet synchronous type, handles most of the driving in everyday conditions, while the front-axle asynchronous motor kicks in only when needed. Together, the two motors have a maximum power output of 295 horsepower1 – enough to get the ID.4 AWD Pro from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.2

Unlike gas-powered AWD, there’s no mechanical link between the axles; instead, they are controlled by the vehicle dynamics settings. This Volkswagen technology balances performance, efficiency and driver demands to choose when to engage the full system. Thanks to the speed of electric motors, the system can react to a wheel losing traction within a few hundredths of a second – far faster than a traditional system, and quick enough that drivers may never notice the intervention.

The Vehicle Dynamics Manager also enables an expanded Driving Mode Selection in the ID.4 AWD; beyond the Eco, Comfort, Sport and Custom modes found in the regular ID.4, there’s a new Traction mode that keeps both motors engaged on slippery roads up to speeds of about 12 mph. The system also uses an XDS+ brake differential for torque vectoring – gently engaging the brake on the wheel inside a bend to reduce understeer.

The ID.4 AWD system also provides an increase in towing capacity of 500 pounds to 2,700 lbs. when using a braked trailer.3 In recognition of its appeal in cold-weather states, it also comes standard with an electrically heated windshield – along with other key features of all ID.4 models, including the 82 kWh battery and IQ.DRIVE suite of driver assistance technologies.

Despite the increased power and additional drive motor, the EPA-estimated range of 249 miles for the AWD Pro4 and 240 miles for the AWD Pro S (Statement)5 is quite similar to that of the standard ID.4. The starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $43,675 for the ID.4 AWD Pro is the lowest starting MSRP for a fully electric AWD vehicle in the United States, and the ID.4 AWD Pro S starts at a MSRP of $48,175.6 Both vehicles are eligible for a potential Federal tax credit of up to $7,500,7 and other incentives After more than 120 years of engineering progress, electric driving has finally gotten some traction.