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Adapt and overcome

Mark Findlay, MD of engineering service provider Drive System Design, addresses the shortage of effective HEV driveline testing facilities and reveals the company’s latest plans to bring its capabilities up to date


With hybrid and electric vehicles increasing in popularity, the industry infrastructure required for their development and validation is still playing ‘catch-up’. There is a serious shortage of capacity across the automotive industry for testing HEV systems as a whole, rather than as constituent sub-assemblies.

Transmissions expertise exists within some companies, e-machine expertise within others, but few have the combined knowledge to test and develop the entire system. While vehicle manufacturers own the high level attributes of the complete vehicle, they rely on strategic suppliers to optimize individual systems. It could be some years before an accepted pattern of working becomes established, perhaps with Tier 1 transmission suppliers absorbing, or partnering with, electric motor manufacturers.

In the meantime, an opportunity exists for specialist engineering consultancies that can combine the necessary breadth of expertise with the scale of investment required to equip the appropriate test facilities. This is precisely the approach taken by Drive System Design (DSD) in commissioning its new Hybrid and Electric Transmission Testing (HETT) facility – one of the largest independent facilities in Europe for the testing of electric motors mated to transmissions.

Not only does the testing require a unique combination of expertise, so too does the design of the test rigs involved. Commercially available test rigs are not optimized for specific applications, often leading to needless over-specification in some areas and shortfalls in others. Designing and building highly configurable rigs, preferably by the engineers that actually use them, provides a cost effective way to meet the requirements set by the customer.

Test rigs that can be configured in numerous ways can lead to very significant cost savings without compromising the functional range or flexibility of the installation. As an example, DSD’s HETT facility can accommodate various driveline configurations with as many as four motors, each rated up to 660kW. It did, however, still call for a serious level of company commitment – this extended to upgrading the site power supply to 2MW in order to accommodate the high electrical demands.

The HETT facility allows DSD to provide accelerated development and validation of complex HEV systems, while reducing the time and cost of development programs. It enables us to support our customers, vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers engaged in the design, development and testing of hybrid and electric driveline technologies.

In parallel, the experience gained in creating the HETT facility enables us to offer a bespoke rig design service for customers investing in their own specialist durability rigs. The expertise is equally applicable to a number of industries including passenger vehicle, HGV, off-highway and marine.

Whether it’s capability or capacity, there is a gap between the demand for the testing and development of complete hybrid and electric systems and the supply of this testing. We believe, like the alternative fueled vehicle market as a whole, the demand will only continue to grow.

Mark Findlay has transmission industry experience from both a technical and commercial background. He jointly founded DSD in 2007 having previously held senior positions in specialist engineering consultancies and OEMs. During his career he has worked at the forefront of new technologies within the transmission and driveline sector.

August 4, 2016


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