Mahle harnesses test facilities to mitigate Covid restrictions

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Mahle Powertrain reports that it has helped a major vehicle manufacturer to overcome testing challenges posed by travel restrictions during the current Covid-19 crisis. The company says that following strict Covid guidelines, utilization of the hypobaric and climatic capability at its Real Driving Emissions Centre in Northampton, UK, has enabled the replication of real-world drive cycles without the requirement for global travel normally associated with altitude testing. This, Mahle claims, has mitigated risk and significantly reduced testing time and cost when compared to traditional methods and could result in a permanent change in the way testing is approached.

“Travel restrictions had the potential to generate a significant backlog in testing. Mahle managed to not only avoid delays during delivery of a program for a major vehicle manufacturer, but devised a more streamlined, cost-effective test schedule that could be completed faster than normally anticipated,” explains Thomas Brooks, Mahle Powertrain’s head of calibration. “We think it’s the first example of a manufacturer completing an RDE test program, including at altitude, in the UK.”

Through strategic use of the chamber testing facilities at the RDE Centre, Mahle asserts that it and its customer have managed to turn a potentially delaying and costly challenge into a production advantage. The company notes that replicating whole drive cycles in one controlled environment as opposed to shipping vehicles, engineers and associated hardware around the globe – even in a Covid-free world – makes a compelling commercial and engineering case. Brooks notes that, based on the company’s own experience, engineer time combined with travel and subsistence costs can very quickly reach significant sums even for relatively modest test programs.

“The vehicle manufacturer carried out eight mountain test runs over a three-day period. This would normally take 9-10 days plus travel and engineer time, with no guarantee of the stable conditions necessary for good test data,” continues Brooks. “This test program provided a guarantee of safety – not only from Covid but from day-to-day road incidents – and crucially, repeatability. There are a number of factors to consider when extending physical location testing, such as logistics, accommodation, engineer time and vehicle shipping. It is much easier to simply book another day of test chamber time. This could mark the start of a real shift in the way powertrain test programs are planned.”

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology International and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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