Frequently Asked Questions
Planning for and Integrating EV Test Cell Projects
I’m not sure if I have adequate power in my facility for electrification testing. What should I do?
It’s important to understand all connected loads and most importantly the diversity of your testing operation. ACS can assist you with evaluating your connected load and applying a diversity factor to determine your overall power needs. Once the overall power requirements are known, an evaluation of your current switch gear and utility feeds can be completed to determine if any upgrades are necessary.
I’ve already bought some test equipment. What are the next steps for getting it installed in my lab?
Always start with a solid plan to ensure that the layout of equipment within your test space is well thought out and that all support utilities are available. We recommend hiring an experienced system integrator and contractors who understand the complexities of a test facility.
I need help to define and refine my requirements. Can ACS assist me?
Absolutely. We start by understanding and documenting your specific testing goals and requirements. From there, we can work with your team to create the design criteria that will guide performance specifications and ultimately, your equipment selection.
Test Equipment Considerations
Does ACS work with specific brands of test equipment?
ACS works with a wide variety of test equipment suppliers which allows us to choose the best solution for each client and project. Our own internal staff designs and builds custom equipment to fit your specific needs. We can help you evaluate all the options so you can make an informed decision about your equipment for electrification testing.
What are the major components I need to test battery packs?
A battery cycler and a climatic chamber are two key components needed for testing battery packs. After that, it really depends on the specific type of development you are planning. Additional testing components may include shaker tables, drop test stations, dust chambers, inverter emulators, etc. We have helped many clients determine exactly what they need, now and for the future.
What are the major components I need to test e-motors?
You will need a power source, an inverter, and a dynamometer to load the e-motor. These functions can be accomplished either via live systems or simulators. Additional components could include a climatic chamber, fluid conditioning for the e-motor and of course, all the necessary safety equipment.
I’m a third-party test provider. What speed of dynamometer should I consider?
When testing e-motors directly, faster is better. Manufacturers continue to push the limits and increase the output speed of traction motors in vehicle applications. Many new dynamometer systems are in the 20,000 to 25,000 RPM range.
How do I protect for ever-changing voltage and current outputs of battery packs?
It is difficult to do since manufacturers are developing both higher voltage and higher current packs for today’s and tomorrow’s vehicles. There are modular battery simulator/cycler solutions that provide some modularity, allowing you to increase voltage and current levels.
Test Cell Considerations
I have an existing fueled test cell that I want to repurpose for EV testing. What should I consider?
ACS can work with your team to identify the specific upgrades and safety considerations required for the transformation to EV testing and put together a plan outlining the various options and associated costs.
I’ve heard of modular/containerized rooms being used for EV testing. What are the advantages?
ACS has delivered electrified test cells in both traditional brick and mortar as well as modular buildings. The right answer depends on your specific needs and situation. Modular solutions allow more work to be completed off-site and result in less construction/installation on-site. Modular solutions can also be installed as a stand-alone structure, creating separation from existing buildings, which is a safety advantage.
Do I need to have a mezzanine above my test cell?
Not necessarily. It is nice to have the extra space to locate some of the support equipment but mounting this equipment on the main level is always an option.
I’m leasing a building. Are there any specific precautions I should take?
Check with your landlord to be sure you understand any restrictions on your lease. A modular solution may be a good option for you to minimize the construction work to the building.
I’m considering installing my test stand in an open space. Or does it need to be in a dedicated test room?
When deciding open space for your new test stand vs. a dedicated room, it is critical to consider all potential hazards and ensure the new test stand has adequate safety systems in place. This ensures a safe working environment both for the operator and anyone in the surrounding area.
Are there any acoustic considerations I should account for in designing my test cells?
There are two considerations you want to keep in mind. First is whether you plan to conduct any acoustical tests in this cell and second, you will want to make sure the modular cell is acoustically isolated from other sensitive work or outdoor space nearby.
I think I need to upgrade my power in the facility to conduct EV testing. What should I do next?
Start first by understanding your connected loads and the diversity of your testing setup. Based on your testing diversity, ACS can assist you in identifying your true power needs and then designing a power distribution system specific for you and your building. If necessary, ACS can work with your utility provider to upgrade your service.
What are my options for providing cooling for the test cells, climatic chambers, etc?
There are several options for providing cooling to your test cells and test articles. The true heat rejection of the test process needs to be understood and then an appropriate HVAC system can be designed.
Can ACS help me to integrate my test stands into the building automation system?
Yes, we can. It is critically important to have all safety systems fully integrated with any building fire protection or alarm systems. We can also integrate building automation systems such as HVAC and lighting.
I have multiple test stands. How can I aggregate all my data?
A test automation solution will allow data from different sources to be integrated into a single repository at a test cell level. At the lab level, ACS can specify and provide a lab management system that allows all test stands in a lab to be managed on a centralized basis.
Do I need a safety rated PLC to monitor my test process
A PLC with a SIL (Safety Integrity Level) rating will help reduce the overall risk level of your test process. ACS can help you evaluate the correct SIL and ensure that all safety monitoring devices are properly specified and installed.
What should I install in terms of fire detection and prevention?
The type of testing you are performing will play a large part in determining what you should install for fire prevention and protection. There are several great technologies that can be implemented to best reduce the potential risk of fire. Early involvement of your risk management team as well as the local fire marshal are key to finding the best solution.
Do I need hazardous gas detection in my test cell?
The materials and types of testing you are performing need to be evaluated to determine the potential hazards and off-gassing. Any gas detection installed can be tied into the SIL-rated PLC system.
I’ve heard of using burn boxes to contain battery fires. Is that an option?
Containing a battery fire is critical to ensuring a safe testing environment. Whether or not a burn box is a viable or optimal solution for your case depends on a host of factors including the size of the pack, the specific tests to be executed (cycling vs. destructive), and its relative location within the facility. Alternative mitigation measures include water bath/deluge, high airflow, inert gas purge, and others. As with other test facility design aspects, ACS can help evaluate and/or validate your options.
Planning for Environmental Chamber Projects
Environmental Chamber Safety
What are the risks when running internal combustion engines inside an environmental chamber?
When internal combustion engines operate within an environmental chamber, harmful and explosive gases and vapors may accumulate inside the chamber. Therefore, it is essential to equip the chamber with a gas detection system that can identify such conditions. Carbon monoxide from the engine exhaust and hydrocarbons from fuel sources such as gasoline, natural gas, or propane are typical gases that need to be detected.
The gas detectors used within the environmental chamber must be rated for the extreme temperatures present during the test.
What are the potential risks to personnel working with environmental chambers?
Environmental chambers can have temperatures well outside a human’s comfort range. The doors of the chamber must be designed in a manner that allows rapid and easy evacuation, in case of an emergency, to prevent any potential harm to individuals.
Personnel who spend time in the chamber must be shielded from extreme temperatures. In cold chambers, where temperatures may plummet to -40°F, exposed skin can suffer severe frostbite in mere minutes. Hot chambers may be arid, causing sweat to evaporate instantly, leading to dehydration and heat exhaustion. To mitigate these hazards, it is essential for personnel to wear appropriate protective clothing, and limitations on exposure must be enforced.
What kind of fire suppression systems are suitable for environmental chambers?
Water is the most common fire suppression method used in the industry, but traditional wet sprinkler systems are not suitable for environmental chambers.
In cold chambers, the water in the sprinkler pipe can freeze. Instead, a “preaction” system must be installed outside of the cold chamber. A sensor inside the chamber detects the presence of smoke, heat, or flame, which then triggers the preaction system to open the valve on fire protection piping and release the water into the chamber.
For some applications in hot chambers, the temperature may be near or above the release point of the commonly used sprinkler heads, which makes them ineffective. In such scenarios, fire systems in hot chambers require special sprinkler heads with elevated trip temperatures.
What are the main cost drivers for building an environmental chamber?
The cost of building an environmental chamber is primarily driven by its size and temperature requirements. If you want to test multiple units at the same time, it may be more cost-effective to invest in a larger chamber. Cold chambers are generally more expensive than hot chambers. Cooling the chamber to extremely low temperatures, like -40°F/-40°C, requires additional facility accommodations, like insulation, warming freezing air before it exhausts from the chamber, or protection to keep the floor from freezing.
What is the expected life span of an environmental chamber?
The expected lifespan of an environmental chamber depends on its intended use and the level of design protection. If the chamber is designed for a particular unit under test, its lifespan will likely be shorter than a chamber built with design protection. You can extend the lifespan of an environmental chamber by over-sizing the chamber in terms of physical size and heating/cooling capacity. Over-sizing will allow you to use the climatic chamber for larger test articles or change testing requirements in the future. These design specifications add cost but could extend the life of the chamber. A well-maintained environmental chamber should easily last for 10-20 years.
What is the low-hanging fruit to cut out of the budget for an environmental chamber?
The first area to consider is whether you can limit the scope of the test applications of the environmental chamber. The upfront cost will be lower, but the overall utilization and ROI on the environmental chamber will also be lower.
Keep in mind, even if you can narrow the scope of test applications, the chamber still needs to meet your business goals and specifications. If there are non-negotiable elements that must be included, you may need to ask for a bigger budget.
After that, the easiest areas for cost-cutting are removing any peripheral design elements that aren’t necessary for the chamber’s primary function, such as adding new storage or office space near the chamber. By focusing on the essential elements and avoiding extraneous additions, you can save money without compromising the chamber’s primary function.
Retrofit or New Build for Hydrogen Testing
Are my existing safety systems adequate for hydrogen testing?
Probably not – unless they were designed with hydrogen testing in mind. Hydrogen functions differently from other fuels and your existing safeties, like those to detect and manage leaks and fire hazards from more traditional fuel sources, won’t work with hydrogen testing. Testing hydrogen also comes with its own set of code and compliance requirements. We recommend conducting a process hazard analysis (PHA) as a first step when considering hydrogen testing.
When is my hydrogen safety system design safe enough?
To determine if your safety system design meets your safety standards and acceptable risk level, you need to compare it to your PHA. The PHA is where you will identify risks within the base system, and then come up with ways to mitigate them down to an acceptable level. If your PHA was thorough, then designing your hydrogen safety system around those acceptable risk levels will qualify as a sufficiently safe test system. We can guide you through conducting a comprehensive PHA.
At a minimum, a safe hydrogen test system will include redundancies, gas and flame detection rated for hydrogen systems, and a safety PLC. Using a PLC with an SIL (safety integrity level) rating will reduce the overall risk level of your test process.
How do differences between hydrogen and other fuels impact safety systems?
The Hydrogen molecule is smaller and lighter than most other fuels. Because of this, detecting it requires different types, quantities, and arrangements of safety sensors. Hydrogen also burns differently, so your existing flame detectors will likely need to be updated as well.
Hydrogen Storage and Distribution
How will hydrogen vendor selection impact my testing?
The first question is whether a hydrogen vendor is available in the local area where you want to do H2 testing. If your test facility is hundreds of miles away from the nearest company that can provide bulk hydrogen, it might not be the right location. When you compare potential bulk hydrogen vendors, find out what infrastructure they’re expecting at the connection point. We’ve found that vendors have the same general requirements but some of the details can deviate. Understanding the vendor’s exact specifications for the connection point is critical to proper design of the facility for hydrogen testing.
Can we use existing infrastructure to pipe the hydrogen from the tank to the test cell?
Hydrogen must be delivered through materials designed to withstand its high pressure. The delivery system also needs to meet safety requirements for clearances from electrical infrastructure, and those electric lines must also be rated for hydrogen.
How much room do I need to store hydrogen tanks?
How much hydrogen you need to store on-site depends on your testing process and articles being tested. However, you will likely need more space for storing bulk hydrogen than other fuels. Hydrogen tanks are stored externally and often delivered by semi-truck. Your design will have to include space to hold the tank, but also the logistical space for the semi-truck to get on and off site and for swapping out of the empty tank for the full one.