VW plans $800 million EV plant in Tenn.; will add 1,000 jobs

VW did not reveal where it will source battery packs for EVs produced at the new Chattanooga plant. But South Korean lithium ion battery producer SK Innovation Co. said last year it will begin construction soon on a $1.67 billion battery plant in Commerce, Ga., about an hour northeast of Atlanta and 150 miles southeast of Chattanooga. SK plans to employ 2,000 workers producing an annual volume of lithium ion batteries equal to 9.8 gigawatt-hours by 2022.

Speaking to Automotive News on Oct. 31, Diess said VW had already “sourced the batteries for 15 million electric cars, so this is a huge momentum coming, and probably from a volume piece, I think we have the best setup strategy for the electric vehicles to come.”

Diess said battery-electric vehicles represented “a chance for Volkswagen. It suits the brand. It will be a very sophisticated product, a modern product, fully connected, and my feeling is, from the first meetings we had that we share that view.”

VW’s global EV strategy — developed during and in the wake of its $31 billion global diesel emissions crisis — seeks to capitalize on the group’s economies of scale. Its modular MEB platform can use different sized battery packs and give designers broad leeway to develop a wide range of “top hat” offerings to ride above the battery packs. So far, VW’s first designs, such as the I.D. hatchback, feature much more interior space than a similar-sized internal combustion vehicle, as well as a range of 250 to 375 miles, fast acceleration and charging, at a price similar to that of a turbodiesel, Diess said.

“Many — not all — would consider an electric car, because if you are still driving far distances, 20,000 or 30,000 miles, it’s probably not the right car. But there are so many people who are driving longer distances only so often, and it makes a lot of sense, in Europe, in China, and in the United States, because the cars are really becoming good,” Diess said. “It’s not all over the world, because electric cars don’t make sense all over the world. But in areas where we have affluent people, where renewable energy is available, electric cars make a lot of sense.”

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