Volkswagen Breaks Ground on its EV Battery Engineering Lab in Tennessee
German automaker Volkswagen has officially broken ground on its Battery Engineering Lab at its Chattanooga Engineering and Planning Center in Tennessee. The new $22 million dollar facility will test and validate electric vehicle cells and battery packs for the electric vehicles the automaker will build and sell in North America.
Volkswagen has already begun expanding the Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant to become its North American production center for electric vehicles.
The new lab will join Volkswagen 564,000 square-foot electric vehicle production facility and 198,000 square-foot battery pack assembly facility to form Volkswagen's U.S. hub for EV production and engineering.
The Chattanooga assembly plant will include new production lines for both battery cell and battery packs that will be installed in the company's future electric vehicles, including the upcoming ID Crozz SUV.
Volkswagen will test and optimize battery cells manufactured by SK Innovation in Georgia at the new lab. This testing will include batteries for the ID Crozz, which is scheduled to enter into production in the U.S. production in 2022 at the Chattanooga plant.
The new battery engineering lab is also part of VW's effort to localize vehicle development and production in Tennessee in order to lower costs and speed up development cycles.
The automaker currently tests its battery in two labs in Germany, Braunschweig and Wolfsburg, along with Shanghai and Changchun in China.
"Testing batteries in the U.S. at this world-class lab helps us get vehicles to market faster, at lower cost and better tuned for U.S. customers," said Dr. Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, EVP and Chief Engineering Officer, Volkswagen of America. "It also lets us ensure the safety and reliability of our batteries in conditions U.S. customers encounter every day."
Volkswagen's growing presence in Chattanooga is turning the region into a high-tech hub, which is what happened in Austin, Texas, when big tech companies began opening offices there. Some of the companies with operations in Austin include Apple, Google, IBM, NVIDIA and Facebook.
"Volkswagen of America continues to be an industry leader and core to our Tennessee economy," said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. "I am pleased that VW selected Tennessee as the site of its newest battery lab in the world and the only lab in the U.S. This is a significant development for our growing tech scene and our Tennessee workforce is ready for the challenge.
An aerial view of Volkswagen's assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
VW said that by testing and validating battery components in Chattanooga, it will allow engineers to more quickly apply the lessons learned to local production. The company's engineers will test battery components, the integration of the battery with the vehicle and look for more ways to integrate locally produced components into the production process.
The EPC will feature cutting-edge equipment, including pressure testers, explosion-rated climate chambers and a unique custom-built multi-axis shaker table (MAST), which is designed to stress test the integrity of the batteries in some of the roughest conditions they ever face on the road.
The Chattanooga battery lab will have other unique features as well, including a battery-to-grid connection that sends unused energy back to the grid. It also will be built to LEED standards as part of Volkswagen's long-term goal of becoming a carbon neutral company by 2050.
The battery lab is an important part of VW's future plans. The automaker is investing roughly $50 billion to transition to an electric car company, eliminating gas and diesel-powered vehicle production and replacing them with new models powered by batteries. The company aims to produce 1.5 million battery-powered models by 2025.
VW has been building internal combustion engine cars in Chattooga since 2011.
In May, VW announced that its supervisory board approved several projects in a multibillion-dollar alliance with U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co to jointly develop electric vehicles. The partnership with Ford was first announced in July 2019.
The collaboration between the two automakers is one of the biggest partnerships of its kind in the auto industry and will include the sharing of technology to jointly build electric vehicles.
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