Volkswagen plans to break ground soon on a state-of-the-art, high-voltage laboratory at its Chattanooga Assembly plant. The lab, an extension of the plant’s Engineering and Planning Center, will be used to develop and test electric vehicle cells and battery packs for upcoming models assembled in the United States. It is expected to be fully operational by spring 2021.

“There are two ways that auto companies approach the development of electric vehicle batteries,” said Wolfgang Maluche, vice president of engineering at Volkswagen of America. “A lot of them will farm out the development and testing of batteries to another company, and some will actually do the work of developing and testing in-house. We are doing the latter.”

Among the lab’s notable features will be a custom multi-axis shaker table (MAST), which is designed to test the integrity of vehicle components under a variety of harsh conditions and climates. The Chattanooga lab’s MAST will be built to withstand the immense force and frequency that is needed to test electric vehicle batteries, which typically weigh hundreds of pounds and run the width of the vehicle. The lab will be only the second location in the country with a MAST of its size.

Another notable lab feature will be its focus on sustainability. Chiefly, the lab will be built to meet Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design standards for environmental impacts, including a battery-to-grid connection that sends unused energy back to utilities. This design decision is in line with Volkswagen’s goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

The high-voltage lab is the latest initiative undertaken by Volkswagen that helps reinforces Tennessee’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in America, as stated by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner.

Construction is still underway on an $800 million expansion of the Chattanooga plant that, when complete, will produce two battery-powered cars, including the all-electric ID.4 SUV.