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Volkswagen taps Tennessee lab to enhance lightweighting & wireless charging

Innovation Hub in Tennessee revolutionizes electric cars for maximum efficiency
By Josefina Dipaolo
July 21, 2023

Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, founder of Lotus Cars, once said, "subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere." Following this philosophy, Volkswagen Group is on a mission to make its cars more efficient by reducing weight, especially in their electric models.

In 2020, Volkswagen of America established its Innovation Hub at the Tennessee Research Park, focusing on applied materials science in collaboration with the University of Tennessee and Oakridge National Lab. The teams are dedicated to exploring breakthroughs in lightweight composites, recyclable interior materials, and wireless charging for electric vehicles.

Pablo Di Si, President, and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, highlighted their commitment to sustainable transportation, stating that their efforts in Tennessee exemplify tapping into American ingenuity alongside academic research and Volkswagen's industry expertise. Volkswagen sees knowledge and talent sourcing in the United States as vital for its growth strategy.

Leveraging artificial intelligence and the University of Tennessee's high-performance computer cluster, the team developed a modular repeating structure using 3D-printed tiny pyramids. This structure, capable of holding 30,000 times its weight, creates a frame up to 60% lighter than conventional steel frames while exceeding them in energy absorption.

The Volkswagen team also patented a unique wireless coil and charging pad design utilizing silicon carbide materials. The aim is to optimize charging speed and safety, making electric vehicle charging as convenient as parking in a regular garage spot. Through collaboration with Oakridge National Lab and the University of Tennessee, Volkswagen has increased the charging power level to 120 kW with their prototype, with a long-term goal of achieving 300 kW.

The implications of wireless charging for vehicle-to-home (V2H) and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications are still uncertain. Still, the potential for bi-directional wireless charging is a captivating prospect that could revolutionize how we power our vehicles.

As the world eagerly awaits advancements in wireless charging technology, achieving higher power levels becomes an exciting possibility. Volkswagen's dedication to innovation and sustainable mobility drives the industry forward and shapes the future of electric vehicles.

Volkswagen's innovation drive unlocks a greener future, pushing the boundaries of electric vehicle development with lightweight materials and wireless charging. Through strategic partnerships and cutting-edge technologies, Volkswagen paves the way for a more efficient and convenient transportation landscape, revolutionizing sustainability in the automotive industry.

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