Volkswagen Group of America’s Innovation Hub Knoxville, the company’s technology unit for applied materials science, has expanded its research collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the largest U.S. Department of Energy science and energy laboratory and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT). The expanded collaboration aims to explore how to integrate breakthroughs in material science and recycling concepts to support electric mobility and sustainable transportation. The first project involves testing ORNL’s new high-power wireless EV charging concepts with a Porsche Taycan.
“We aim to leverage the unique knowledge and innovative power the Tennessee Valley holds”, said Scott Keogh, President & Chief Executive Officer at Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. “Volkswagen is focused to push electric mobility and new technologies for ever-more sustainable transportation. Expanding our research collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee will help drive these efforts.”
The expanded working relationship was just another example of Volkswagen’s growing engineering and technology footprint in the United States, Keogh added.
The interdisciplinary teams have started testing new wireless charging concepts for electric vehicles. Their goal is to develop a higher-power wireless charger through breakthrough designs that focus electromagnetic waves to eliminate interference, thus increasing efficiency. In the first trials, a prototype system has shown a high level of efficiency where up to 98 percent of the energy used (coil-to-coil) could reach the vehicle battery.
“We are excited to work with Volkswagen to demonstrate ORNL’s high-powered, ultra-efficient wireless charging technology,” said Xin Sun, Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Science and Technology at ORNL. “Our unique polyphase electromagnetic coil design and power electronics provide high power transfer levels in a compact system, with the potential to alleviate electric vehicle range anxiety and speed the decarbonization of the U.S. transportation sector.” The wireless charging project is supported by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office.
Using Volkswagen’s expertise in vehicle integration, the teams also have been able to build from a charging power level of 6.6 kW up to 120 kW, with a goal of 300 kW – enough to provide an 80 percent recharge of the Porsche Taycan in about 10 minutes. The research project aims to generate new insights into the technological and physical hurdles of high-power wireless charging for automobiles.
Other research projects at Volkswagen’s Innovation Hub Knoxville focus on advanced functional materials, including composite car body parts and plant-based materials for future interior designs. The team is also working on new recycling concepts for materials conventionally deemed non-recyclable, such as fiber reinforced composites.
Located on UT’s Knoxville-based Research Park at Cherokee Farm, Volkswagen Group of America can tap UT’s world-leading research talent, including faculty and doctoral students, who explore collaborative research opportunities and have direct involvement in the company’s applied research and development.
“Our work with Volkswagen fits with our vision to create a more just, prosperous, and sustainable future through our research,” said UT Knoxville Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Deb Crawford. “Volkswagen is a model innovation partner, and understands the value that co-location with a world-class research university creates. Together, we are identifying technological solutions that could lead to a more sustainable future for our planet”.
Volkswagen is a member of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, a research and innovation consortium funded at UT by the Department of Energy. Volkswagen also works closely with UT Chattanooga, with an MBA program that lets its employees earn the degree by taking classes at the Chattanooga assembly plant or on campus.
Volkswagen Group of America opened its Innovation Hub Knoxville in early 2020, in partnership with UT. Since then, the unit has established working relationships with universities and key researchers in the region. The Innovation Hub Knoxville joins the global Volkswagen Group’s larger innovation ecosystem, including innovation centers in Belmont, California; Wolfsburg, Germany; and Beijing, China, along with hubs in Barcelona, Spain; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Tokyo, Japan.
“The global Volkswagen Group aims to build a more sustainable vision of future mobility worldwide, and we connect the best researchers in the world to make that a reality”, said Nikolai Ardey, Executive Director Group Research at Volkswagen Group. “Co-innovating with partners like Oakridge National Laboratory and University of Tennessee helps to multiply the power of Volkswagen’s international innovation team.”