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MAHLE Powertrain to invest in a second Northampton test chamber

MAHLE Powertrain has unveiled plans to invest in a second test chamber at its Real Driving Emissions (RDE) Centre in Northampton.

The chamber will be suited to develop and validate electric vehicle performance under wide-ranging climatic conditions and will be equipped with a four-wheel drive dyno along with a battery emulator, as well as safety measures to enable testing of vehicles powered by hydrogen.

The latest investment comes as a direct result unprecedented demand for the RDE Centre’s facilities, originally opened in 2021.

“This next phase of our on-going investment programme in 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 2021, our hypobaric & climatic test chamber has been in virtually constant use. It was even the case during lock-down conditions this past 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 dependable, 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 work with an internal combustion engine (ICE) as part of their propulsion system, while MAHLE Powertrain estimates this can still be over 50% by 2040, so interest in the existing test chamber is forecast to continue as ICE development refocuses on hybridised units.

“Considering that statistic, it therefore made perfect sense to have a second chamber having a battery emulator, suitable for EV development,” says David Pates.

“This second chamber may 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 along with 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 in the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP).

Judith Barker, Director of Programmes and Governance at SEMLEP, said: “We're 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 aligned to our Local Industrial Strategy priorities and also the ambitions of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. We look forward for this further success and see this new facility being an important part in supporting the economical 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 along with a new e-axle test facility in Fellbach, Germany.

Following on from the investment in battery cell test facilities this past year, the UK site in Northampton has additionally unveiled plans for a significant battery power 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 also, 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 means of ICE and electrification for over ten years now,” concludes Pates.

“There has never been a more technically challenging time in auto powertrain development and goal, as always, to help our customers get the most effective powertrain possible within their budget and timescale. In that respect at least, nothing’s changed.”

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