Wolfsburg, Salzgitter and Braunschweig form the Volkswagen Group's "Battery Valley": here top experts are developing next-generation batteries.
The Volkswagen Group is committed to the most profound transformation in its history, an evolution that focuses on electric mobility, software and the latest technologies on all fronts.
One of the pillars of the strategy is battery technology: a few days ago the Group officially kicked off construction works of the Salzgitter gigafactory, on the site that will also host the headquarters of PowerCo - the Group's new company for the battery business that will be responsible for cell production, operations in factories on an international level, further development of cell technology, vertical integration of the value chain, and the supply of machinery and equipment to the production plants - an R&D center, a pilot line, a test area, the recycling line, and a training center.
The Battery Valley
Salzgitter, together with Wolfsburg and Braunschweig, forms the Volkswagen Group's so-called Battery Valley, a kind of 'battery technology innovation triangle'. One of the vertices is Volkswagen's headquarters in Wolfsburg.
Here, with an investment of 800 million euros over the next five years, the Sandkamp Campus will be built to become Europe's most modern research and development center. And it' s not a coincidence that the name Battery Valley alludes to Silicon Valley, because just as in California, the best experts from around the world are converging in Lower Saxony to work towards a specific goal: shaping the mobility of the future with new technologies and products.
One of them is Chang Liu, who works in high-voltage battery purchasing in Braunschweig. "I come from China and work with colleagues from Germany, Korea, India, Great Britain and North America. The international atmosphere is very fascinating, here I was able to continue my studies and learn a foreign language at the same time", says engineer Liu, who graduated from the University of Braunschweig in 2015 and then worked in technical consulting, first for Volkswagen and then for Audi.
"I left Braunschweig three times: first for an internship in Hamburg, then for my master's thesis in Berlin, and finally to work at Audi, in Ingolstadt, for a year". Chang Liu explains how the move to Volkswagen was natural because of his studies at the University of Braunschweig, which works closely with the Volkswagen Group in the field of vehicle technology.
In the beginning, Chang Liu dealt with global sourcing, an interdisciplinary task that involves engineers but also quality control and logistics specialists. Prices are negotiated with suppliers, production costs are analyzed, and battery and manufacturing components are secured. In early 2022 Chang Liu switched to "project purchasing", an area in which technical improvements are brought to series production, bundling insights from development, quality control, logistics, and procurement. All this while keeping in mind the Volkswagen Group's goal of becoming carbon neutral. "We are all working together to reduce CO2 as much as possible. To succeed we need to increase the range of vehicles and make charging faster, but also reduce costs for users. My contribution towards this goal is to identify stable and viable suppliers".
Engineer Liu not only appreciates the work in Battery Valley: "Braunschweig and Wolfsburg are small but very pleasant cities with many museums, theaters, and restaurants. In the Harz mountains you can go hiking and sometimes even skiing in winter. I love to live in the center of Braunschweig, where I can get around by bus or bike, while to go to Wolfsburg I take the train or use carpooling".
The close quarters and nature also inspire Sarah Dieck, who works as a project manager in the Battery Systems Development & Electronics department, dealing in particular with hybrid vehicles. She also lives in the city, in Braunschweig, and grew up in this region. "Everything here is reachable by bike, the old town is beautiful, and the center of town is not dispersive. The Harz mountains are close by, but Hamburg and Berlin are also close at hand", says the 34-year-old, who studied business administration at the University of Applied Sciences in Wolfsburg and then worked in event management.
After a period in Australia, she returned to work for the Volkswagen Group via an external service provider, and came into contact with e-mobility almost by chance. She applied for a position in battery development and joined the Group. Today, in the role of project manager for industrialization, she ensures the start of production of the next generation of plug-in hybrid models. "I'm basically a communication hub, the meeting point for colleagues from different departments: quality assurance, procurement, production, planning, and logistics", specifies Sarah Dieck.
From hybrid to electric
According to Dieck, hybrid vehicles are a good starting point for those customers who still have reservations about 100% electric cars: "They can be introduced to electric driving without having to completely leave behind what is familiar to them, after which they get hooked quickly," she explains.
A top priority within the Volkswagen Group is decarbonization: "We have a responsibility to do everything we can to improve the climate situation. The sooner we shift our driving to electric cars that run on sustainable electricity, the better".
Innovating for the future
The Volkswagen Group is shaping the mobility of tomorrow with completely new electric vehicles, both from a battery and software perspective; innovative methods and processes are used for industrialization, both in development and production. "We have colleagues from all over the world, in many cases we become friends, and the great cultural diversity is really stimulating and inspiring", Dieck concludes. Chang adds, "The Volkswagen Group is a great employer, especially for young people who want to learn. Through the learning platforms and entry-level training programs, one can approach many topics and further develop them".
In short, working in Battery Valley means taking the opportunity to be part of a global company, experiencing from the inside the dawn of a new age of mobility, working in interdisciplinary and multicultural teams, living in small and medium-sized cities with a high quality of life.
Source: Volkswagen - Shaping Mobility Hub
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