MAHLE Powertrain has unveiled plans to invest in a second test chamber at its Real Driving Emissions (RDE) Centre in Northampton UK. The chamber will be ideally suited to develop and validate electric vehicle performance under wide-ranging climatic conditions and will be equipped with a four-wheel drive dyno and a battery emulator, as well as safety measures to enable testing of vehicles powered by hydrogen. The latest investment comes as a result of unprecedented demand for the RDE Centre’s facilities, originally opened in 2018.
“This next phase of our on-going investment programme at the RDE Centre will provide vital extra facilities for our vehicle manufacturer and tier 1 customers,” says David Pates, Head of Engineering . “Since the original opening in July 2018, our hypobaric & climatic test chamber has been in virtually constant use. This was even the case during lock-down conditions last year, when we helped manufacturers to sign off whole vehicle test programmes despite Covid-19 travel restrictions. While avoiding costly delays at the time, it also points the way to a reliable, faster and more cost-effective way to undertake such programmes post-pandemic.”
MAHLE’s research estimates that in 2035, globally 73% of passenger cars will still make use of an internal combustion engine (ICE) as part of their propulsion system, while MAHLE Powertrain estimates this will still be over 50% by 2040, so demand for the existing test chamber is forecast to continue as ICE development refocuses on hybridised units. “Given that statistic, it therefore made perfect sense to have a second chamber with a battery emulator, suitable for EV development,” says David Pates. “This second chamber will have an operational temperature range of -20 oC to +40 oC with the ability to simulate solar loading. For hydrogen-fuelled vehicle development we are building-in safety measures such as blast walls and a domed chamber roof for stray H2 gas collection. We plan for the new chamber to be ready for customers by the end of Q1 2022.”
The £5.1m investment is being part-funded by a £1.5m grant from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), a public-private sector-led organisation tasked with promoting economic growth in the region. Judith Barker, Director of Programmes and Governance at SEMLEP, said “We are really pleased to be able to support MAHLE Powertrain’s continuing investment into EV development at Northampton. Enhancing technologies and decarbonising our transport choices is very much aligned to our Local Industrial Strategy priorities and the ambitions of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. We look forward to this further success and see this new facility as an important part in supporting the economic recovery of the South East Midlands post COVID-19.”
MAHLE Powertrain’s latest announcement comes after news of a number of recent investments for its facilities around the globe, including a new powertrain dyno at their US facility in Michigan and a new e-axle test facility in Fellbach, Germany. Following on from its investment in battery cell test facilities last year, the UK site in Northampton has also unveiled plans for a significant battery pack testing facility which will open later in 2021.
“Our heritage is founded on ICE development, dating back to the first Cosworth road car engines, and since those times we have some notable landmark engines to our credit. However, back in 2008 we could see the way the future of the automotive industry was developing and have been keenly focussed on our dual propulsion strategy of ICE and electrification for over a decade now,” concludes Pates. “There has never been a more technically challenging time in auto powertrain development and our aim is, as always, to help our customers develop the most effective powertrain possible within their budget and timescale. In that respect at least, nothing’s changed.”
Find out more about MAHLE Powertrain’s new test chamber by visiting www.mahle-powertrain.com