Volkswagen, UTK, and ORNL to create innovation hub at UT Research Park

Volkswagen, the University of Tennessee, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have partnered to create the automaker’s first innovation hub in North America. The hub will be located at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. Key stakeholders recently held a press conference at UT Research Park to announce the collaboration and hold a formal ribbon cutting ceremony. 

According to the official press release, the collaboration involves research opportunities for doctoral students with initial work focused on creating lighter vehicle components made from composite materials, electric vehicles, and other innovative automotive pursuits. 

Randy Boyd, President, University of Tennessee speaking

“Working with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a great opportunity to continue growing Volkswagen’s engineering footprint in the North American region,” said Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, VW’s executive vice president and chief engineering officer for the region. “This hub, along with other research institutions here, is an integral part of Volkswagen’s global research and development efforts and can also directly contribute to vehicles in North America.”

Volkwagen first partnered with the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, when it opened its Chattanooga Assembly plant in 2011. In late 2019, the automaker broke ground on a $800 million expansion of its Chattanooga Assembly Plant that will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the area. 

TAEBC welcomes advanced energy solutions and partnerships like the innovation hub. This opportunity reinforces the state’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in the country, as previously stated by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner.

What is the future of sustainable transportation? Ask UT’s Experts

September 8 – 16 is National Drive Electric Week. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has a number of faculty researching areas of sustainable transportation who can be used as sources for stories about this exciting and rapidly changing industry.

Candace Brakewood focuses on “smart” transportation systems and aims to use new information and communication technologies to improve urban transportation networks. Her expertise includes public transportation, shared mobility, transportation planning, and intelligent transportation systems.

Chris Cherry is an expert in environmentally friendly modes of transportation including e-bikes. His expertise includes transportation planning, public transportation systems, environmental impacts of transportation, and transportation infrastructure in developing countries.

David Clarke, director of the Center for Transportation Research, is focused on railway sustainability, transportation planning, freight systems, and transportation safety.

Thomas K. Davis is interested in addressing problems and opportunities in urban and architectural design, with an emphasis on transit-oriented development. Davis’s students are working with the Nashville Civic Design Center to contribute to Nashville’s long-range vision for urban core and mixed-use developments along the waterfront to transit-oriented developments, micro-housing residences, and a new visitor center for Centennial Park.

David Greene‘s research interests are focused on energy use in transportation and policies to reduce petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and achieving a transition to sustainable energy sources. He has published extensively on automotive fuel economy. How technology and policy can accomplish a transition to sustainable energy for transportation is a current focus of his research and modeling. Other research interests include the costs to the US economy of petroleum dependence, the “rebound effect” of increased vehicle use due to increased fuel economy, and modeling consumers’ choices of vehicles and fuels.

Lee Han is one of the leading authorities on traffic in the United States. He has been called on for his expertise in everything from the impact of red light cameras to developing transportation plans. He uses modeling and simulations to study the impact of various factors on traffic grids and is instrumental in bringing new technologies into traffic planning and use. He is partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and works on developing intelligent transportation systems.

David “Butch” Irick is faculty sponsor of the university’s EcoCar program. His areas of focus include emissions and performance testing for automobiles, hybrid vehicle design and integration, alternative fuel development and use, and computer integrated manufacturing.

Jonathan Overly is a research associate in UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment and executive director of East Tennessee Clean Fuels. He has been in the advanced fuels and vehicles industry since 1997, and in 2001, he founded the nonprofit East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition, a designated partner in the US DOE Clean Cities program.