Mahle Powertrain has begun the development of a new test chamber optimized to develop and validate electric vehicle powertrains, as well as provide additional capacity for hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle testing.
Scheduled to open in early 2022, the £5.1m (US$7.2m) test chamber is located at its Real Driving Emissions (RDE) Center in Northampton, UK. The chamber, which is able to simulate a wide range of testing climates, is a response to high levels of demand for the company’s facilities while travel restrictions have been in place preventing typical testing in hot and cold regions around the globe.
“We’re very excited to be breaking ground on our new chamber. The demand for this facility reflects the agile, fast-paced evolution of the automotive industry’s current push for development of advanced powertrain technologies,” said David Pates, Mahle Powertrain head of engineering. “Vehicle manufacturer and tier 1 customers realized the time and cost benefits of utilizing our first test chamber during lockdown, and this investment will further broaden our capabilities as the industry emerges from the pandemic having adopted new, more flexible ways of working.”
Demand for Mahle Powertrain’s first hypobaric and climatic test chamber pushed capacity in the last 12 months, during when the company signed off whole vehicle test programs to overcome travel restrictions. The second chamber, with an operational temperature range of -20oC to 40oC, will be equipped with a battery emulator for EV testing and will also be capable of simulating solar loading. It has been designed with blast walls and a domed chamber roof as in-built safety measures for the handling of hydrogen.
“We estimate that 73% of passenger cars globally will still feature an internal combustion engine by 2035, and over 50% by 2040, so we don’t anticipate any drop in the high level of demand experienced for our first chamber,” said Pates. “For this reason, it made sense for the latest investment to complement our existing capability by increasing its specific focus on electrification and hydrogen-fuelled powertrain. We believe that the ability to provide facilities dedicated to the industry’s diverse propulsion requirements will be extremely beneficial for ambitious manufacturers and tier 1 suppliers.”
Breaking ground on its new development is Mahle Powertrain’s latest financial commitment, following the opening of a new e-axle test facility in Fellbach, Germany. The company will also open a new battery pack build and test facility in Northampton later in 2021.