MAHLE Powertrain has announced completion of two new facilities, built with an investment of £15m, in Northampton to deliver testing capability for the transport industry as it transitions towards decarbonised propulsion.
The purpose-built facilities will provide customers with safe testing of vehicles, batteries, and hydrogen technologies, even under extreme simulated environmental conditions, the German auto parts maker said.
“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,” said Simon Reader, MAHLE Powertrain’s Managing Director.
The MD said the new centre was designed with both battery and future-fuelled vehicles in mind to provide a spread of unique capabilities.
The new battery testing facility has the capability to test battery packs of up to 1MW with full fire protection in the event of a thermal runaway, the company said.
“The creation of a new battery testing facility which, thanks to a collaboration with the National Grid allows battery packs to be developed internally and rigorously tested without wasting energy,” the company said, noting the facility returns power to the grid wherever possible, complementing the service offering to customers in the field of battery development.
Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer, who inaugurated the facilities, said the investment recognises the wealth of engineering talent in the country, particularly, in the region – a stone’s throw from the heart of British motorsport – “with 160 skilled technicians and engineers already employed at the site”.
The facilities were part of a £15m investment programme over the last five years, including £3.6m from the UK Local Growth Fund and SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership), MAHLE said.
The new Vehicle Development Centre (VDC) allows manufacturers to test both two- and four-wheel-drive vehicles in a variety of conditions and circumstances, all without the need for a gruelling programme of international travel, the company said. The facility can replicate the conditions found in the coldest arctic climates and the hottest arid deserts, the humidity of a tropical rainforest or the pressure experienced at the highest peaks, it added.
The facility’s test chambers can accommodate both two- and four-wheel-drive vehicles tested at speeds up to 155mph, the company said. Climatic conditions can be simulated from -40°C to +60°C with humidity ranging from 10% to 80%, while pressure control allows altitudes up to 5,000m (16,400ft) to be simulated.
The facility’s forward-thinking design supports the testing of hydrogen-fuelled technologies by monitoring and safely venting any escaping gases.