Volkswagen is committed to becoming a fully electric vehicle company within the next decade, and its US arm quickly realized that two things needed to be done. With VW being All-American in ID4 assembly by 2022, they needed all-American battery production to ease supply chain woes, and a method of recycling their old batteries. The solution plans to use older batteries as an energy storage solution at VW’s affiliated Electrification America stations, and the automaker’s new Battery Engineering Lab in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to help VW take on its all-American EV future with more battery technology. will develop.
German brand, American EV production
The need to move VW’s battery production closer to its US ID4 assembly plant became apparent due to global supply chain constraints beginning in 2020, which risk disrupting the company’s plan to sell all EVs by the beginning of the next decade. run.
The partnership with SK Innovation is part of VW’s $2.7 billion investment in North American production, to help protect itself in the current volatile market. SK Innovation is part of the SK Group, a Korean energy provider involved in petroleum refining and exploration and expanding into alternative energy, with some battery manufacturing based in the US.
Still, relying solely on SK for production won’t be enough, and VW is opening its Battery Engineering Lab (BEL) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in May. This $22 million investment will allow VW to test and validate current and new battery technologies for the US market.
BEL will work closely with VW’s Center of Excellence (CoE) North American field battery research facilities in Chattanooga and Belmont, Calif. CoE will work closely with partner QuantumScape in San Jose, Calif. for solid-state battery development, and 24M in Cambridge, Massachusetts on a project described as “re-imagining the design of the battery cell.”
VW’s Lithium Battery Lifecycle
Something also needs to be done with the battery cell which is nearing its end of life. This is where VW laid out a lifecycle plan for its current and future lithium-based batteries. While the essential utility of the battery pack may no longer function in a car, the pack is still usable in other applications because many cells will still hold a charge.
The VW plant is to use packs that are no longer feasible for automotive use as energy storage at Electrify America charging stations. Doing so will allow EA stations to ease access to the local electricity grid by using their stored energy during peak times, along with help from EA’s solar power connections.
Eventually, though, the energy storage capacity of those old packs will deplete to an unusable state. From that point, the battery pack will be dismantled and recycled back into the new battery pack, reusing the minerals that make up the liquid electrolyte within the layers of the lithium-ion battery.
This closes the planned life cycle for VW’s lithium-ion battery use, reducing some of the need for new raw materials. VW hasn’t determined whether they’ll partner with anyone at this stage—there are already several lithium-ion battery recycling companies in the US—or go it alone.
Cheap batteries, reusing old packs for energy storage at charging stations, and recycling unused packs to make new batteries; The all-EV future that VW has promised so far looks a lot more sustainable and realistic to the plans set out today. Now, we want VW to release the RWD EV Beetle with the new ID Buzz to make this future even more fun, exciting and sustainable. We didn’t hear anything like that, but fingers are crossed.