Second climatic test chamber to be opened at low-emissions powertrain development site for focusing on electric vehicles and fuel cell technology

EV-optimised climatic chamber M

ahle Powertrain has broken ground on the development of a new climatic test chamber located at its Real Driving Emissions (RDE) centre in Northampton. The chamber is in response to high demand for the company’s expertise and facilities and will be optimised to develop and validate electric vehicle powertrains. Scheduled to open in spring 2022, the £5.1m investment complements the existing capability of the RDE centre, which opened in 2018, and will also provide the automotive industry with additional specific hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle testing capacity.

Commenting on the start of work on creating the

new test facility, David Pates, Mahle Powertrain head of engineering, says the demand for the facility reflects the agile, fast-paced evolution of the automotive industry’s current push for development of advanced powertrain technologies. “Vehicle manufacturers and tier one customers realised the time and cost benefits of utilising 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,” he says. The 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, says: “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

8 /// Testing & Test Houses /// June 2021

❱❱ The second test chamber will have a curved ceiling and extraction chimney for stray gas collection and disposal along with a solar array to mimic the effect the sun’s heat may have on vehicle performance

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.”

DESIGNED FOR HYDROGEN Demand for Mahle Powertrain’s first hypobaric and climatic test chamber pushed capacity in the past 12 months, during which the company signed off whole vehicle test programmes to overcome travel restrictions. The second chamber, with an operational temperature range of -20C to 40C, 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,” says 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 powertrains. 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 one 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 this year. T&TH

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