Volkswagen is cooperating with the University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy to establish its first innovation centre in North America. Research at the “Innovation Hub” will include research into electrification.
Initial work will focus on the development of lighter vehicle components made of composite materials, vehicle electrification and other automotive innovations, according to a statement by the North American subsidiary of the automaker. The centre will be located in Knoxville, Tennessee, just under two hours’ drive northeast of the VW plant in Chattanooga.
Doctoral students will be supported at the centre and, according to the university, Volkswagen has developed an MBA program that will enable Volkswagen employees to complete their degrees at the plant or on campus. At the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, which was founded by the university and the Ministry of Energy, VW employees have developed a tailgate made of composite materials that is 35 per cent lighter.
With the Innovation Center, VW wants to increase its “technical footprint” in North America, as Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, Executive Vice President and Chief Engineering Officer of Volkswagen Group of America, puts it. “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,” he said. The Group maintains similar innovation centres in Belmont (California), Wolfsburg, Beijing, Barcelona, Tel Aviv and Tokyo.
VW opened its vehicle plant in Chattanooga in 2011, and since autumn, the site has also been prepared for the production of electric cars on an MEB basis. As part of this process, 1,000 additional jobs will be created. In the future, an electric SUV of the ID. series is to roll off the plant’s production lines. Currently, the US version of the Passat and the Atlas and Atlas Cross SUV models, which are intended for North America, are produced at Chattanooga.
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