£8.3m MAHLE Powertrain facility offers automotive emissions testing and powertrain development resources in response to stringent new regulations
End-to-end development process uses advanced integrated simulation and laboratory facilities to minimise on-road testing
Altitude dyno test cell is the first of its kind in the UK, and is able to replicate any road under any conditions worldwide
Dual powertrain strategy is driving the Centre’s expansion of electrical propulsion test facilities
The new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) Centre, recently opened by MAHLE Powertrain Ltd., has been recognised as a significant contributor to the powertrain design process by a leading international awards panel. The Northampton, UK facility won the coveted Engine Test Facility of The Year category in the Automotive Testing Technology International (ATTI) Awards last month. The £8.3m centre was part financed by the South-East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership through the UK government’s Local Growth Fund. It is the first of its type in the UK and offers vehicle manufacturers a unique opportunity to cut the timescales and costs required to ensure that their vehicles comply with RDE and WLTP test regulations due to complete implementation in September 2019.
“Our RDE Centre represents a significant investment in providing a solution to an industry challenge. We are delighted that the benefits have been recognised by such a prestigious award,” says Simon Reader, engineering director at MAHLE Powertrain Ltd. “The RDE Centre integrates simulation and whole-vehicle development in a virtual environment and, together with on-road (PEMS) testing, provides an end-to-end process using the latest tools and techniques as early as possible in a vehicle programme. This cuts development times and costs for vehicle manufacturers and offers them the opportunity to conceptualise, develop and validate future propulsion systems on a truly representative real driving emissions cycle.”
MAHLE Powertrain was the first company in the UK to gain VCA approval for its RDE test routes and has now amassed considerable PEMS experience. The RDE Centre has a unique-in-the-UK hypobaric capability, which enables precise altitude testing of vehicle propulsion systems as a key component of a complete development solution. As part of a planned growth strategy, innovative electric motor and battery performance test facilities are now being extended, to support MAHLE Powertrain’s dual strategy of ICE and electrification systems development.
“We use VCA certified RDE routes that can be simulated in a virtual environment and on the chassis dyno without setting foot, or tyre, on to tarmac. This means engineers have the opportunity to make dynamic revisions swiftly and efficiently as part of a robust development process, without having to go to and from road driving at altitude,” Reader continues. “The ability to handle entire end-to-end programmes whilst reducing the reliance on on-road testing enables the streamlining of vehicle development both in terms of cost and time. This can help ensure that vehicle manufacturers are ready for the latest stringent legislation. Our decision to further extend our electrical performance testing facilities was the logical next step.”
The breadth of MAHLE Powertrain’s RDE Centre’s capability provides a timely solution for vehicle manufacturers seeking to develop technologies in the face of stricter regulations. The Centre’s barometric vehicle test chamber is used to apply altitudes of up to 5,000 metres and complements the facility’s existing expertise. Temperatures of between -40oC and +60oC can be simulated along with appropriate road gradients, using a leading-edge 4WD chassis dyno. MAHLE Powertrain has designed the RDE Centre to simulate a wide range of conditions: the highly configurable facility can carry out test procedures in humidity levels between 10 and 80%, at up to speeds of 250km/h and a maximum altitude change of 166m/min, which helps make it suitable for testing against nuanced regional requirements globally.
“The ability to provide exceptionally close correlation with real-world operating conditions will provide manufacturers with a crucial time advantage when it comes to developing powertrain technologies that reduce real-world emissions,” continues Reader. “Our industry-leading skills and resources can simplify compliance with increasingly challenging real-world emission regulations.”
The Engine Test Facility of the Year award from ATTI is judged based on nominations made by industry peers, which include senior powertrain and testing engineers, directors and decision-makers. “Winning the award so soon after we have opened the centre shows how such facilities will be key to powertrain development in the future” concludes Reader. “Our new RDE Centre now gives MAHLE Powertrain customers vital time and cost advantages.”
MAHLE’s powertrain consultancy business was formed in 2005 by the acquisition of the Cosworth Technology Group, which became MAHLE Powertrain. Still located on the same site in Northampton UK, the MAHLE Powertrain team has been responsible for the design and development of some landmark performance engines for a wide variety of manufacturers, including Nissan’s GTR 3.8L V6 and a number of Audi RS powerplants. MAHLE Powertrain has since developed its dual strategy for powertrain development using a combination of ICE and electrification, as demonstrated by its heavily down-sized VW Golf, whose 1.2L ICE produces 160ps per litre and is combined with 48V hybridisation. Other innovations include a high capacity 48V battery, and the MAHLE Flexible ECU (MFE) allowing prototype engines to integrated into modern production vehicle systems.
The company is currently engaged in a number of electrification and ICE development programmes for mainstream manufacturers, bringing speed, flexibility, robust systems and extensive experience to their processes. Projects are tested and validated at MAHLE Powertrain’s new UK-based RDE Centre, which can integrate virtual simulation, laboratory and on-road testing in either an end-to-end process or on a project basis, to suit customers’ requirements. With its focus on hybrid development through the dual strategy, the centre, which incorporates the UK’s only hypobaric altitude test cell, is currently extending its performance testing facilities for electric motors and batteries.
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