Mahle Commits to Second Climatic Powertrain Test Chamber

Mahle has begun building its second climatic test chamber primarily focused on both Bev and hydrogen fuel cell powertrains in response to the expected growth of the sector.

It has broken ground on development of the new test chamber located at its Real Driving Emissions (RDE) center in Northampton. The £7.07M investment complements the existing capability of the center, which opened in 2018, and will also provide the automotive industry with additional specific hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle testing capacity. The opening is scheduled for spring 2022.

The company says demand for its first hypobaric and climatic test chamber challenged capacity in the last year, during which the company signed off whole vehicle test programs 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.

David Pates, Mahle Powertrain head of engineering, said: “The demand for this facility reflects the agile, fast-paced evolution of the automotive industry’s current push for development of advanced powertrain technologies. 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.”

ICE prospects

However, Pates recognized that ICE technologies around the globe will remain a dominant force for many years to come. He added: “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. For this reason, it made sense for the latest investment to complement our existing capability by increasing its specific focus on electrification and hydrogen-fueled 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.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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