Volkswagen breaks ground on electric vehicle expansion at Chattanooga plant

Volkswagen recently broke ground on its $800 million expansion of its Chattanooga Assembly Plant that will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the area. Construction is projected to take 17 months and hiring will begin at the end of 2020.

Around 200 company and auto industry representatives, state and local officials, plant employees, and members of the media gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony on November 13.

“This is a big, big moment for this company,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, in a prepared statement. “Expanding local production sets the foundation for our sustainable growth in the U.S. Electric vehicles are the future of mobility and Volkswagen will build them for millions of people.”

The factory expansion includes a 564,000-square-foot addition to the body shop and another 198,000 square feet for an assembly site for the vehicles’ electric battery packs. Tom du Plessis, CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga said the plant is expected to produce over 100,000 electric vehicles (EVs) a year, with the possibly for 200,000, depending on the market.

Volkswagen currently produces its midsize Atlas SUV and the Passat sedan at the Chattanooga facility. Production for its EVs should begin in early 2022, where the first model will be an all-electric crossover based on the I.D. CROZZ Concept. It will be the first EV produced in the country using Volkswagen’s MEB platform.

This Volkswagen groundbreaking also further reinforces the state’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in America, as stated by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner. Rolfe was quoted in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Our goal is to be at the forefront of all electric vehicle manufacturing and the suppliers that will wrap around.”

Google opens Clarksville-Montgomery County data center

Google recently opened its new, $600 million data center in Montgomery County. The data center’s power usage is matched with 100 percent renewable energy as part of a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). 

The Clarksville data center will employee a range of professionals, including engineers, maintenance, computer technicians, and more. Governor Bill Lee, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Bob Rolfe, Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durett, Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, TVA CEO Jeffrey Lyash, Austin Peay State, and University President Dr. Alisa White joined Google executives for the opening ceremony on November 6.

“We welcome Google to Clarksville and are thrilled with the growing technology sector right here in Tennessee,” said Governor Bill Lee. “Our highly skilled workforce and Google’s reputation for innovation will be transformational for this area and beyond.”

Since initially announcing its investment in the area, Google has given more than $450,000 to local nonprofits and schools. The company has also worked with Austin Peay State University on the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative.

“While this project is a part of a larger nationwide network of data centers, Google has worked hard to make a strong local impact. We are grateful to Clarksville and Montgomery County for welcoming us into this great community, and that is why we have made a concentrated effort to give back,” said Enoch Moeller, Google Data Center Site Lead. “We are thankful for the strong partners we have met throughout the process including, the State of Tennessee, both local governments, the Montgomery County school system, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Austin Peay State University, and many more.”

Google executives said from the outset of the deal being finalized that Clarksville-Montgomery County offered many of the most desired attributes on the company’s site-selection checklist. Those include a trained and tech-savvy workforce, as well as the right energy infrastructure and pad-ready, developable land.

(Some information used from The Leaf Chronicle)

ORNL researchers win five R&D 100 Awards

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers and scientists were recently named winners of five R&D 100 Awards. R&D World magazine and its parent company, WTWH Media, LLC., made the announcement, bringing ORNL’s total wins to 221 since the creation of the award in 1963.

The winners are as follows:

  1. “CellSight – Rapid, Native Single Cell Mass Spectrometry,” developed by ORNL and Cytena GmbH
  2. “Multiparameter Sensor Platform for Cyber-Physical Security of the Electric Grid,” developed by ORNL and Brixon
  3. “High Strength Binder System for Additive Manufacturing,” developed by ORNL and ExOne
  4. “Voltanol: Electrochemical Conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Ethanol,” developed by a team of ORNL researchers
  5. “Unified Communications X (UCX),” submitted by Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-developed with ORNL

“This awards program is so well recognized across the R&D community. Being named as one of the R&D 100 is an incredible honor,” said Paul J. Heney, Vice President, Editorial Director for R&D World. “These 100 winning products and technologies are the disruptors that will change industries and make the world a better place in the coming years.”

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) researchers were involved in 41 of the 100 awards. Researchers at Vanderbilt University also won an award for “Real-time Intraoperative Parathyroid Identification to Prevent Accidental Removal of Parathyroid Glands During Thyroid Surgery.”

Winners will be honored at the annual R&D 100 Conference on December 5.

Innovation Crossroads applications for Cohort Four are due on Halloween!

Interested in applying for the Innovation Crossroads program or know an aspiring energy entrepreneur who should? The application deadline for Cohort Four is tomorrow, October 31 at 5:00 p.m. EDT. 

Innovation Crossroads is an Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) program that matches aspiring energy entrepreneurs with experts and mentors in technology-related fields to take their world-changing ideas from R&D to the marketplace. Participants receive a two-year fellowship and lab access and funding to support their innovations. They also have access to entrepreneurial training and exclusive networking opportunities. 

To be eligible to apply, applicants must have a PhD or equivalent experience; be focused on energy or manufacturing innovation; leverage ORNL R&D capabilities and have an impact on the Department of Energy or TVA mission; be willing to relocate to the Knoxville-Oak Ridge area; and be a lawful U.S. citizen or permanent resident. 

Here are some key dates and information to keep in mind about the application timeline:

  • Applications close: October 31, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. EDT
  • Initial application review: November 2019 – Applications are reviewed by the Innovation Crossroads team, as well as scientific and industry subject matter experts
  • Phone interviews: December 2019 – Based on initial review, selected applicants will be invited to conduct a brief phone screen with the Innovation Crossroads team.
  • In-person interviews: January/February 2020 – Interviewees will be invited to visit ORNL to tour facilities, connect with potential collaborators, principal investigators and mentors, and present for our team of reviewers.
  • Cohort Four selected: March 2020
  • Cohort Four starts at Innovation Crossroads: May 2020

Ready to apply? Click here for the application. Contact innvcrossrds@ornl.gov if you have any questions.

Active Energy Systems Secures Funding as One of Three Initial Investments from New, Local Venture Capital Fund

Energy Mentor Network graduate, Active Energy Systems, was selected as one of three initial investments made by the TennesSeed Fund, a new, evergreen, seed-stage, proof of concept venture capital fund that seeks regional investments in Tennessee companies. 

The Fund is managed by a collaboration of Three Roots Capital, Meritus Capital, and Innova Memphis, Inc. Grady Vanderhoofven, the founder, president and chief executive officer of Three Roots Capital, and Ken Woody, the president, partner and founder of Innova Memphis, serve as the Fund’s co-managers, directors, and investment team members.

The Fund does not have a specific industry or technology focus, allowing it to help companies, like Active Energy, achieve specific, well-defined milestones. Woody said the evergreen structure “allows for the permanent, ongoing cycle of fundraising, investments, and successful investment outcomes, which hopefully will have direct and lasting economic benefits throughout the state.”

“Our relationship with the TennesSeed Fund has been great timing for us,” said Active Energy Co-Founder Mitchell Ishmael. “They provided the right advice at the right time and funds just when we needed them to secure our intellectual property claims. This investment and relationship has been immensely valuable for us.”

In addition to the Fund’s investment, Active Energy has received funding from the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation SBIR program matched by LaunchTN. Combined, these investments amount to over $500,000.

In addition to funding momentum, Active Energy recently graduated the Energy Mentor Network, run by TAEBC in partnership with Launch Tennessee. To graduate, participating startups must build investable pitch decks, finance models, and structured business plans and defend those plans before panels of established entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Active Energy also completed its two-year fellowship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program in May. Speaking with Teknovation.biz earlier this year, Ishmael said “the Innovation Crossroads team helped us make the necessary industry and investor connections to complete our pivot.”

Currently, the company is building a larger cooling system for a 6,000 square foot facility and constructing a “show and tell” system for onsite demonstrations. 

Visit Active Energy Systems’ website to learn more about this innovative startup. If you are interested in becoming a mentor for startups like Active Energy Systems in the Energy Mentor Network, follow this link.