VW announces research progress in the USA

Volkswagen reports progress in research at its US innovation centre in Tennessee. The German carmaker’s developers are working on increasing the range of electric vehicles via material improvement and further developing inductive charging there, among other things.

The relevant research projects are taking place at the Knoxville Innovation Hub of the Volkswagen Group of America, which will open in 2020 and where the carmaker is cooperating with the University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory of the US Department of Energy, among others. The focus in Knoxville is on applied materials science. Volkswagen has dubbed the entire region around the site ‘Materials Valley’ due to its high concentration of research institutions.

In a recent press release, Volkswagen outlined the progress made so far, including in the field of e-mobility. Researchers are working on material structures to reduce vehicle weight and thus increase the range of electric cars, for example. The first pilot project in this area aims to create an alternative to the steel frames that house the battery and protect it from physical impacts.

By applying artificial intelligence, Volkswagen says the US team has succeeded in developing a modular, repeating structure in the form of tiny pyramids made of liquid resins. The German company states that this structure could be 3D printed and hold 30,000 times its own weight. “A newly created frame would be up to 60 per cent lighter. Hardcore durability tests showed that it exceeds the conventional steel frame in energy absorption, and could serve as a lightweight, yet ultra-robust alternative,” VW wrote. Also aimed at reducing weight, scientists in Knoxville are developing new fibre composites for other vehicle parts, such as the tailgate.

The US innovation centre is also researching the further development of inductive, static charging. According to Volkswagen, the team has patented a coil and charging pad design with silicon carbide materials. In initial tests with a silicon carbide inverter, this prototype system has shown high efficiency, the carmaker reports. “ORNL’s capabilities in high power wireless charging, and UT’s knowledge of power electronics optimization, the research team has been able to increase the charging power level up to 120 kW with this prototype from an earlier 6.6kW prototype, with a future goal of 300 kW.”

The researchers in Knoxville work with all Volkswagen Group brands, including Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche and VW. The centre is also networked with other facilities in Volkswagen’s innovation ecosystem. This includes innovation centres in Belmont, California, Wolfsburg and Beijing, as well as hubs in Singapore, Tel Aviv and Tokyo.



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