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Investments continue for MAHLE Powertrain
MAHLE Powertrain (MPT) is continuing its investment in battery engineering with phase 2 of its electrified powertrain strategy. A new battery pack testing facility will open in autumn 2021 to further aid electric vehicle battery optimisation, focusing on advanced understanding of battery architecture, control systems, charging rates, and cooling. This latest investment follows the launch of its battery module test and analysis facility in phase 1 of its strategy in 2019, where battery modules can be tested in an array of steady-state and dynamic climatic conditions.
In addition, plans have also been unveiled to invest in a second test chamber at its Real Driving Emissions (RDE) Centre in Northampton. 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 increased demand for the RDE Centre’s facilities, originally opened in 2018.
Real Driving Emissions (RDE) Centre:
MAHLE head of engineering, David Pates, said: “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. 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. This second chamber will have an operational temperature range of -20oC to +40oC 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.
Battery Development Centre:
Derek Wise, chief engineer for build and test at MAHLE, said: “This next phase will provide our vehicle manufacturer and tier 1 customers with vital battery technology insight, offering a boost to UK manufacturing competitiveness. We will be able to conduct development and validation with the aim of better understanding the technologies that support physical battery chemistry: cooling and control systems, for example, will be the key factors in optimising battery performance for specific applications.”
The new facility, incorporating build and three climatic test chambers, will come online in Q3 2021 for battery development and validation testing, and charge and discharge rates.
Phase 2 will add to MPT’s portfolio of electrical test capability giving a total of 1.25MW electrical power across six separate rigs and chambers. Some innovative new features, designed by MPT, will be included in the battery test chambers to increase flexibility. The test environment will be precisely controlled to mimic a variety of real-world conditions, with temperature control between -40oC and 80oC and humidity control between 24-93%.
Wise concluded, “The elusive goal that has been mooted by the industry is the ‘million-mile’ battery. For such an ambition to be attainable, collection and strategic use of data relating to battery characteristics will be absolutely essential. It is not simply battery chemistry that is holding back advancement, but the control systems, cooling and charging rates, which have already advanced significantly in recent years as the industry better understands the technology.
“MPT’s EV simulation, design and software capabilities will be enhanced by the facility’s HIL and real-world data generation, helping to further accelerate development. By significantly extending the lifecycle of EV batteries we address the second-use conundrum by effectively eliminating the challenge.”
MAHLE Powertrain says the new development is part of a larger EV development strategy, with further phases being rolled out in 2022.