The Tennessee-based factory is at the forefront of sustainability.
Volkswagen is looking to lead the electric vehicle segment and plans to dethrone Tesla in the coming years. That's quite a claim, but evidence suggests the German giant is slowly gaining on Musk's carmaker. Vehicles such as the ID.4 are proving popular, and sales should increase now that the electric crossover is built at VW's Chattanooga plant in the USA.
Like the electric vehicles that spew out of its doors, the Chattanooga facility was designed with sustainability in mind. Volkswagen says the plant was designed to operate as part of VW's climate initiatives. This includes the reduction and offsetting of CO2 emissions and the end goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.
Chattanooga is one of 53 VW Group factories that uses 100% renewable electricity and, since 2021, the Tennessee-based facility has reduced plant CO2 emissions by 67.3%.
The factory boasts one of the biggest solar fields in the state and is capable of generating 13 GWh of electricity every year. This is enough to supply the factory with up to 12.5% of the energy required during peak manufacturing hours, and 100% the rest of the time.
The grass around the solar fields is even trimmed sustainably. A flock of sheep wanders about, chomping away at the lawn. In return, they seek refuge from the sun under the cool shade of the panels. But it's not just our bleating friends that enjoy a good relationship with VW Chattanooga.
When construction was completed, the automaker agreed to help protect the environment through several initiatives. In 2019, it donated $1.25 million to help conserve land near the Cherokee National Forest. The sizeable gratuity helped The Conservation Fund secure 1,500 acres that are now protected by the US Forest Service.
Ten years before this happened, though, VW Chattanooga was already restoring nearby wetlands to preserve the landscape and protect vulnerable wildlife. 11 years later, in 2020, the company's hard work paid off. Over 40 acres of bio-diverse wetland have been rehabilitated; 200 or so bird species, and countless plants and animals, now call this home.
Aside from all that's going on in Chattanooga, the larger Volkswagen Group of America is also readying itself for the impending electric revolution. The automaker is looking to invest $7.1 billion over the next few years in preparation and hopes to build the necessary infrastructure for the shift.
This includes slowly phasing out ICE-powered vehicles by 2030, and increasing electric offerings. The ID.4 remains the sole EV in the lineup, but will soon be joined by the ID. Buzz minivan and the elegant ID.Aero sedan.
To accommodate the rising amount of battery-powered VWs, the American subsidiary is seeking to bolster its charging network (through Electrify America), with more than 800 charging locations and 3,500 DC fast chargers. Operation "Boost Plan" hopes to grow this in the coming years - by 2026, it hopes to have 1,800 stations and 10,000 chargers.
These efforts and electric vehicles are all good and well, but the ultimate act of sustainability is recycling. To that end, Volkswagen is looking to recycle EV batteries here in the United States, which it says will help develop a circular economy. In turn, this will reduce the dependence on mining and help the environment. Interestingly, VW already has a dedicated plant in Germany that's sole purpose is to recycle batteries.