Volkswagen of America (VWoA) has opened its Battery Engineering Lab (BEL) in Chattanooga, to test and optimize batteries for all electric vehicles in the American marketplace. By developing critical battery expertise in-house, the $22-million, 32,000 square feet facility will enable Volkswagen to gain a competitive edge in the push to electric mobility.
Coupled with the $800-million factory electrification in Chattanooga, the opening of the BEL is the latest step in Volkswagen’s $7.1-billion commitment to boost its product portfolio, R&D, and manufacturing capabilities in the North American region. The first American-assembled Volkswagen EV, the ID.4 compact SUV, is poised to roll off the assembly line in 2022.
The BEL is the first facility of its kind for Volkswagen of America and one of four strategically located units in the Volkswagen Group globally, with one in Germany (Braunschweig) and two in China (Shanghai, Changchun). Engineers will initially focus on batteries and battery packs for Volkswagen’s MEB vehicle platform, with the potential to incorporate various types for all vehicle brands across the Volkswagen Group.
Going forward, Volkswagen aims to look at emerging battery technologies and get an early understanding of how new concepts and prototypes can withstand the company’s rigid specifications. These insights are crucial know-how, as battery technologies continue to improve in terms of energy density, weight and cost, and shape the characteristics of an electric vehicle.
Volkswagen of America’s local engineering group in Chattanooga consists of more than 100 dedicated engineers in various roles, from chassis to driving performance, interior and digital technologies. With the BEL, Volkswagen is adding more highly-qualified jobs. Working on-site or remote via cloud access, a new team of 30 engineers will focus on various climatic, mechanical, electrical, and corrosion tests of battery cells and battery packs.
Volkswagen has invested more than $800 million to prepare its Chattanooga plant for the local assembly of the ID.4 SUV in 2022, including dedicated facilities for vehicle and battery pack assembly. Since 2019, Volkswagen has already transformed four of its global factories to assemble these MEB-specific battery packs, with sites in Germany, Czech Republic and two in China; Chattanooga is the fifth one. Volkswagen employs more than 4,000 people at its factory, and aims to hire 1,000 new production team members through 2022, to help meet customer demand for the Volkswagen Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport, and upcoming ID.4.