‘Unique’ testing facilities for electric and future-fuelled vehicles open in UK

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MAHLE Powertrain has announced the completion of two new facilities in Northampton, the result of a £15m (US$18m) investment over the last five years.

This investment program includes £3.6m (US$4.3m) from the UK Local Growth Fund and SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership), which has allowed MAHLE Powertrain to increase its engineering capabilities in support of the automotive industry as it accelerates its transition towards decarbonized propulsion.`

The purpose-built facilities allow MAHLE Powertrain to support customers with the development of decarbonized propulsion technologies, with a focus on mobility, safe testing of vehicles, batteries, and hydrogen technologies under extreme simulated environmental conditions. The center was declared open for business by Andrew Lewer, MP for Northampton South.

“We’re extremely proud of our new test facilities which complement our end-to-end development process,” said Simon Reader, MAHLE Powertrain’s managing director. “As the industry accelerates the development of a new generation of vehicles that will offer carbon-neutral solutions for the transport sector, it creates a huge demand for testing facilities. Our new center has been designed with both battery and future-fuelled vehicles in mind and provides a spread of capabilities that is almost unique anywhere in the world.”

Andrew Lewer, MP for Northampton South, said: “I’m delighted to be able to declare this important new facility open for business. MAHLE Powertrain’s investment recognizes the huge wealth of engineering talent in this country, and this region in particular – a stone’s throw from the heart of British motorsport – with 160 skilled technicians and engineers already employed at the site.”

The new Vehicle Development Centre (VDC) allows manufacturers to test both two and four-wheel-drive vehicles in a variety of conditions and circumstances, without international travel. The facility can replicate the conditions of arctic climates, deserts, tropical rainforests and mountainous regions. The facility also supports the testing of hydrogen-fuelled technologies by monitoring and safely venting any escaping gases.

Thanks to a collaboration with the National Grid, the new battery testing facility allows battery packs to be developed internally and rigorously tested without wasting energy, returning it to the grid wherever possible.

The new Vehicle Development Centre supports the testing and verification of next-generation electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. The facility’s test chambers can accommodate both two- and four-wheel-drive vehicles tested at speeds up to 155mph (250 km/h). Climatic conditions can be simulated from -40°C (-40°F) to +60°C (140°F) with humidity ranging from 10% to 80%, while pressure control allows altitudes up to 5,000m (16,400ft) to be simulated. Hydrogen-fuelled technologies can be rigorously tested in chambers that monitor and safely vent any escaping gases. The new battery testing facility, meanwhile, with its own substation and dedicated National Grid connection, has the capability to test battery packs of up to 1MW with full fire protection in the event of a thermal runaway.

MAHLE Powertrain’s is already experiencing high levels of interest from automotive manufacturers across the globe, keen to capitalize on the new facility’s capabilities and the company’s expertise in developing innovative solutions.

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Benedict is editorial assistant, social media manager and staff writer across several aviation, automotive and performance technology titles published by Mark Allen Business. He is a graduate of the University of Southampton and spends his free time organising comedy shows, playing basketball loudly and guitar quietly.

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