Volkswagen to Create new Innovations Hub in North America

The car maker is partnering with the University of Tennessee and ORNL

Volkswagen Group of America, the University of Tennessee the UT Research Foundation and Oak Ridge National Laboratory has announced a partnership to create Volkswagen’s first innovation hub in North America at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm.

The partnership will see ORNL scientists and several faculty members within the Tickle College of Engineering at UT develop lighter vehicle components made from composite materials and to electrify vehicles.

This hub, along with other research institutions here, is an integral part of Volkswagen’s global research and development efforts and can also directly contribute to vehicles in North America

Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, executive vice president and chief engineering officer for Volkswagen’s North American

The work is being led by UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Uday Vaidya. His team in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering are focusing on several research and development activities to support prototyping, develop a sheet moulding compound, and evaluate materials and their properties for use in Volkswagen vehicle components.

Researchers from the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science are focusing on research that has been pioneered by their counterparts at ORNL—the wireless charging of parked electric vehicles as well as dynamic charging, in which roadways are embedded with a system that charges electric vehicles as they move. A second project involves packaging wide bandgap power electronics in order to increase power density and efficiency hopefully reducing battery size and vehicle weight.

From the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Peebles Professor Dayakar Penumadu is providing his expertise in materials characterisation for lightweight composites.

The partnership between UT, ORNL, and Volkswagen strengthens Tennessee’s position as a significant source of innovation and talent for the Volkswagen North American manufacturing base, especially at the flagship Chattanooga facility

UT System Interim President Randy Boyd

Volkswagen is also a member of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), which is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office. A team of IACMI undergraduate and graduate students and researchers led by Vaidya created a novel composite liftgate for the Volkswagen Atlas that reduces weight by 35 per cent, with lower investment costs and an improved environmental footprint compared to a conventional part. Researchers from ORNL, Purdue University, and Michigan State University were integral collaborators on the effort.

The new innovation hub in Knoxville will join Volkswagen’s larger global innovation ecosystem. This includes innovation centres in Belmont, USA; Wolfsburg, Germany; and Beijing, China, along with innovation hubs in Barcelona, Spain; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Tokyo, Japan.