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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) 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.


Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers work in the Extreme Fast-Charging Lab in ORNL’s Grid Research Integration and Deployment Center. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

We aim to leverage the unique knowledge and innovative power the Tennessee Valley holds. 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.

—Scott Keogh, President & CEO at Volkswagen Group of America

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% 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. 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.

—Xin Sun, Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Science and Technology at ORNL

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% 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.

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.


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