For Mahle Powertrain, a crackdown on European emissions standards calls for a more advanced testing procedure to keep automakers in the clear — and some fast solutions to get the testing up and running.
Starting in September, automakers must pass a tougher laboratory emissions test called the worldwide harmonized light vehicle test procedure set by the European Commission. Automakers will also be required to measure air pollutants emitted on the road, such as oxides of nitrogen, through real driving emissions, or RDE, test cycles.
"The biggest effect for me is the time it will take to develop powertrains to meet the new RDE requirements, because it has substantially increased the amount of development testing required to achieve RDE compliance," said Simon Williams, leader of RDE Development at Mahle Powertrain in Northampton, U.K., a unit of Germany's Mahle Group.
Vehicles will be driven at higher speeds and with higher engine loads for longer than under previous European emissions regulations. Portable emissions measurement systems are mounted to the back of vehicles to directly test the gas emitted from the tailpipes.
The new rules consist of multiple test cycles, which have increased to two hours, from an hour and a half. The tests measure temperature results from minus 7 to 35 degrees Celsius (19.4 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit). They look at an altitude of 0 to 1,300 meters (1,422 yards), and weigh a range of driving dynamics, such as harsher or lighter accelerating and braking.
"You start to imagine this six-sided cube of different scenarios that could potentially cause you to fail your emissions target," Williams said. "So you start increasing the amount of testing necessary to meet the RDE requirements."
To answer the call for more testing, Mahle is constructing the Real Driving Emissions Centre in Northampton. The center, which is to be completed in the second quarter of 2018, includes simulation chambers with altitude capabilities.
As a vehicle drives up a mountain in a test chamber "pressure vessel," the gradient profile of the chamber adjusts temperature and air pressure so the vehicle undergoes the exact driving conditions of driving up a mountain.
Williams said the test center and its advanced technological capabilities enable Mahle to meet "all the corners of the RDE requirements" without leaving the Northampton site.
"I think for all manufacturers, it's very high up on their priority list to understand the best way of streamlining the testing," Williams said. "For us, it's how do we get as much accurate data as fast as possible to meet automakers' vehicle development and project timelines?"