Chattanooga is expected to convey 3.2 acres at Enterprise South industrial park to let Volkswagen access a planned new battery testing lab to support assembly of an electric SUV.
The site of the new lab, which is expected to employ up to 20 people, is to be at or near 4016 Hickory Valley Road, according to a City Council resolution slated to be taken up Tuesday.
The city is to convey the property to its Industrial Development Board, which oversees much of the industrial park in Tyner where VW employs about 3,800 workers making the Atlas SUVs and Passat sedan.
The high-voltage laboratory will develop and test electric vehicle cells and battery packs. VW didn't immediately give the facility's size or cost.
The lab will support the automaker's Chattanooga Engineering and Planning Center, which is located in a building separate from the plant on Discovery Drive. The lab also will support work in VW's entire North American region, according to the automaker.
The company is expected to break ground soon on the lab, aimed at starting operations next spring. The Chattanooga production plant is to build the all-electric ID.4 SUV by 2022 and an $800 million expansion is underway.
Wolfgang Maluche, vice president of engineering at Volkswagen of America, said there are two ways auto companies approach the development of electric vehicle batteries.
"A lot of them will farm out the development and testing of batteries to another company, and some will actually do the work of developing and testing in-house. We are doing the latter," said Maluche, who came to Volkswagen's Chattanooga operations from Germany more than two years ago.
The company said the lab will feature cutting-edge equipment, including pressure testers, explosion-rated climate chambers and a custom multi-axis shaker table (MAST), which is designed to test the integrity of vehicle components in some of the roughest conditions they might face on the road.
Most automotive labs have MASTs, but almost none were designed for electric vehicle batteries, the company said. EV battery packs are the largest and heaviest component in an EV, typically weighing hundreds of pounds and running the width of the vehicle, VW said.
The Engineering and Planning Center employs about 100 people supporting the VW plant from an engineering standpoint, said Maluche.
Additionally, the center is involved in a multimillion-dollar partnership that will enable Volkswagen to gain key research into electric vehicles and lighter automotive components with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They joined to create the automaker's first "Innovation Hub" in North America.
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