Volkswagen of America broke ground yesterday on the Battery Engineering Lab at its Chattanooga Engineering and Planning Center. The $22 million facility will test and validate electric vehicle cells and battery packs for the North American region.
The new lab will join Volkswagen Chattanooga’s under-construction 564,000-square-foot electric vehicle production expansion and the 198,000-square-foot battery pack assembly facility to form the company’s hub for EV production and engineering in the region. Volkswagen will test and optimize battery cells manufactured at Georgia-based SK Innovation at the new lab. This testing will include batteries for the Volkswagen ID.4 all-electric SUV, scheduled to begin U.S production in 2022.
The engineering lab is part of Volkswagen’s efforts to localize all aspects of vehicle development and production, which lowers production costs and development cycles. Currently, battery testing and validation occur in two labs in Germany, along with two labs in China. Testing and validating battery components in Tennessee will allow engineers to more quickly apply lessons learned to local production.
“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 Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, executive vice president 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.”
VW engineers will test battery components, the integration of the battery with the vehicle and look for ways to integrate locally produced components into the production process. The lab will include pressure and immersion testers, corrosion chambers, five explosion-rated climate chambers and a custom, two-ton multi-axis shaker table, which is designed to test the integrity of the vehicle components in some of the roughest conditions they might face on the road.
Built with sustainability in mind, the lab will feature regenerative load cyclers that can return energy to the building or grid to be as efficient as possible.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said, “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.”