With the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory combined in focus on transforming automotive manufacturing, the power of partnership means improved fuel efficiency, safety, and longevity for the next generation of Volkswagen vehicles.
A team of engineers in IACMI – The Composites Institute is focused on developing new lightweight composites for use in Volkswagen vehicle components. The group created a liftgate for the Volkswagen Atlas that reduces its weight by 35 percent. Researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Purdue University, and Michigan State University were integral collaborators on the effort, led by Uday Vaidya, the University of Tennessee-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing, and Dayakar Penumadu, the Fred N. Peebles Professor and chair of the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Advanced Materials.
The country’s premier national laboratory and a top-ranked public university are shaping the future of scientific discovery and redefining what we know about materials development. UT and ORNL are founding members of IACMI, a composites development partnership of industry, academic institutions, and state and federal agencies.
Lightweight manufacturing will be a critical step for automotive manufacturers to realize the goal set by European Union nations to reduce emissions in cars and vans by 30 percent by 2030.
The development of lightweight composites for Volkswagen has direct and immediate impact on vehicle design and manufacturing in Tennessee and demonstrates the real-world potential of public-private partnerships. Industry partners like Volkswagen provide research and development opportunities that have significant economic and environmental benefits for Tennessee and the US.
Volkswagen has been a valued partner of UT since opening its Chattanooga assembly plant in 2011. The facility produces the Volkswagen Passat sedan and Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs, specifically designed for the North American market. The company recently broke ground on a new electric vehicle production facility, which includes a 564,000-square-foot body shop addition and up to 1,000 new jobs in Tennessee.