MAHLE Powertrain has announced the completion of two new facilities in Northampton, the result of a £15m investment over the last five years (including £3.6m of UK Government funding), that will deliver much-needed testing capability as the automotive industry accelerates its transition towards decarbonised propulsion.
The purpose-built facilities allow MAHLE Powertrain to support customers with every aspect of development for the future of mobility, permitting the safe testing of vehicles, batteries and hydrogen technologies, under even the most extreme simulated environmental conditions.
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), has allowed MAHLE Powertrain to increase its engineering capabilities in support of the automotive industry in development of future mobility.
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 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. In addition, the facility’s forward-thinking design supports the testing of hydrogen-fuelled technologies by monitoring and safely venting any escaping gases.
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, returning it to the grid wherever possible, really complements the service offering to customers in the field of battery development.
The new Vehicle Development Centre supports the testing and verification of next-generation electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. The facility’s test chambers can accommodate both two- and four-wheel-drive vehicles tested at speeds up to 155mph. 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. Hydrogen-fuelled technologies can be rigorously tested in chambers that monitor and safely vent any escaping gases. The new battery testing facility, meanwhile, with its own substation and dedicated National Grid connection, has the capability to test battery packs of up to 1MW with full fire protection in the event of a thermal runaway.
“We’re extremely proud of our new test facilities which complement our end-to-end development process,” said Simon Reader, MAHLE Powertrain’s Managing Director. “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. Our new centre has been designed with both battery and future-fuelled vehicles in mind and provides a spread of capabilities that is almost unique anywhere in the world.”
Andrew Lewer, MP for Northampton South, said: “I’m delighted to be able to declare this important new facility open for business. MAHLE Powertrain’s investment recognises the huge wealth of engineering talent in this country, and this region in particular – a stone’s throw from the heart of British motorsport – with 160 skilled technicians and engineers already employed at the site.”