The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council is a membership-driven organization. Each month, we highlight one of our valued members. This week, we’re talking to Wolfgang Maluche, Vice President of Engineering, Volkswagen Engineering and Planning Center, Chattanooga. Maluche is also a TAEBC Board Member. Learn more about Maluche here.
What is the value of the advanced energy industry in Tennessee?
Wolfgang Maluche: The presence of a thriving advanced energy industry in Tennessee not only allows for modern technologies to enter the market, but also creates more opportunities for the community with the support of companies like Volkswagen and other qualified tech-focused companies nearby. Tennessee’s continued leadership in this space has strengthened the state’s automotive manufacturing capacity and secured the future of the local economy amid the transition to e-mobility.
How does your organization fall under or support the advanced energy industry?
Maluche: Volkswagen has long been at the vanguard of advanced energy thanks to the unique benefits of Tennessee’s economic, academic, and institutional infrastructure. That’s what we call the Power of the Tennessee Valley! For example, our Engineering and Planning Center (EPC) in Chattanooga recently took on a new role as an electric vehicle test hub for our all-electric Volkswagen ID.4 SUV. The EPC has been busy assisting with the first high voltage battery tests and will add new responsibilities as the ID.4 begins rolling off the line in Chattanooga midst of this year. We’re also building a new unit at the EPC to house battery testing and high-voltage component engineering, where the team can integrate innovative technology into all Volkswagen EV models in the years to come.
What exciting developments would you like to discuss about your organization?
Maluche: After investing $800 million into our Chattanooga manufacturing plant, we’re gearing up for the local assembly of our ID.4 this year. And as America’s EV revolution continues, we’re focusing on equipping our employees with the skills and competencies they need to succeed. For example, our Volkswagen Academy in Chattanooga has served as an upskilling program since 2010 and is the plant’s primary workforce development program — which is key for introducing the new skills and instruction needed to work on EVs.
Additionally, we’re always working to develop thoughtful partnerships and initiatives to further our goals. Our Innovation Hub Knoxville has expanded its research collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT). This collaboration aims to integrate breakthroughs in material science and recycling concepts to support electric mobility and sustainable transportation.
And we’re not just progressing in terms of what the factory is building, but also on how it’s operating. At our Chattanooga solar park, we’ve enlisted reliable partners to help with the regenerative management of the land — sheep! As a herd of about 50 sheep graze the land beneath our solar panels, they provide benefits such as vegetation control and minimization of erosion risks.
These are just a few examples of our initiatives to further grow our organization’s capabilities and retain our position as a leader in the movement for a more sustainable planet.
Why did your organization join TAEBC?
Maluche: Joining TAEBC has allowed us to connect with and learn from other key industry drivers in the advanced energy space. This council provides us a space to collaborate as we work toward the same goal, supporting the growing and evolving advanced energy economy in our state, which is also key for our very goal of providing sustainable mobility.
What value does TAEBC provide to your organization and the state of Tennessee?
Maluche: TAEBC has been instrumental in amplifying Volkswagen’s activities in the advanced energy space, while also providing us an opportunity to connect with other leading stakeholders throughout Tennessee. The council builds on Tennessee’s historic investment in future technology and resources that drive growth and prosperity forward.
What are your hopes for the future of the advanced energy industry in Tennessee?
Maluche: At Volkswagen, we understand that Tennessee is in a unique position to lead in the advanced energy space. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with other members of TAEBC to grow our competencies to support the local economy and solidify Tennessee’s reputation as a flourishing hub for the industry.
About Volkswagen: Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, one of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers and the largest carmaker in Europe. It operates a manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee and houses the U.S. operations of a worldwide family of distinguished and exciting brands including Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Volkswagen, as well as VW Credit, Inc. Learn more on our TAEBC Members page.