Automotive giant VW held an event celebrating the opening of its new EV battery R&D center in the German city of Salzgitter on September 13. In its press release about the event, the company also announced that it will be committing more resources into building up its expertise in battery technologies so as to progress forward in developing its own powertrain systems for EVs.
In the press release, VW said that it will be investing around EUR 70 million in four laboratories that will engage in battery cell development, cell analytics, and cell testing. In particular, VW will initiate a cell testing program that comprises 200 analytical methods. The carmaker will also develop new chemical formulations for EV batteries. Around 250 experts will be hired to staff these laboratories, which will have an initial total area of 2,500 square meters.
Frank Blome, head of VW’s battery cell and system unit, said that the newly opened R&D center is one of the most modern facilities for battery research in Europe on account of its advanced equipment. For example, the center employs one of the world’s few scanning electron microscopes for detecting lithium. The center also has an automated test field for studying performances and the aging process of cells. One of these tests involves cells that can be charged from 5% to 80% within 12 minutes. Going forward, VW will be testing cells of all formats and power classes in order to find solutions that improve performances, slow down the aging process, and maintain long-term structural integrity.
Regarding cell analytics, researchers at VW will be studying individual components and materials to determine their competitiveness and quality assurance. Furthermore, one of the four laboratories will be used to test cells for operational and environmental safety. This facility will have six chambers where cells are subjected to electrical, thermal, and mechanical stresses. As for cell development, VW will be evaluating new materials, find new chemical formulations, and develop more efficient manufacturing processes. In the press release, the company said that the research facilities will be working in a coordinated fashion so that innovations can be transferred directly to a pilot production line for small-scale production.
Thomas Schmall, who serves as a board member for technology at VW, said that since battery is the heart of an EV, VW will be expanding its battery development capability through its advanced laboratories. Schmall added that the company will adopt a comprehensive approach, encompassing the different technologies pertaining to the development and manufacturing processes. He further emphasized that the new projects in Salzgitter are an indication of his company’s success in transitioning from the conventional fuel-based powertrain system to the new battery-electric powertrain system.
The press release stated that VW plans to begin producing its “unified cells” at its Gigafactory in Salzgitter in 2025. Looking further ahead, the company will raise its EV battery production capacity to 240GWh by 2030. According to the information available on various automotive news websites, unified cells will be divided into the “low volume” category that is based on the LFP cell technology, the “high volume” category that has a substantial manganese content, and the “specific solution” category that is based on the NMC cell technology. An aim behind the development of unified cells and the related electric mobility platform is create cost savings with respect to materials, design, and production process.