The 3 Test Facility Electric Vehicle Trends You Need to Know

May 8, 2024 - Author: Everett Lenz - Senior Integration Engineer, Mechanical

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Test facility electric vehicle trends

Adopting Forward-Thinking Battery Technology Trends

Automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are in a challenging spot. When planning new facilities for EV testing and development, they have to balance protection for future EV technology, while avoiding over-investment today.

This challenge intensifies when the pace of events can render an approved design less useful to the end user group by the time the project reaches commissioning and hand-off. Equipment specified at the start of a project might not be suitable to support the evolving product goals that new test requirements must meet.

We encourage clients to consider the future against today’s use case scenario when specifying test equipment so they can take a strategic approach to balancing costs against potential changes in business goals. This often involves an in-depth technical comparison of test equipment offerings across a multitude of vendors.

Anticipating future needs or new directions requires assessing current electric vehicle trends. Here are three battery technology trends affecting the electric automotive sector that manufacturers should consider for their potential influence in shifting business objectives.

Building for Batteries of the Future

OEMs are looking towards the future in their desire to design and specify facilities capable of testing batteries not feasible in vehicles on the road today. Intense competition in the industry has led OEMs to specify automotive test equipment that is assumed to exceed capacities that could reasonably exist in passenger vehicles.

This arms race is leading test equipment manufacturers, specifically those in the battery simulation market, to design and build systems able to meet these demands. These battery simulators represent evolving technology, often with a limited track record. This can lead to unexpected performance upon start-up, causing an iterative process to get their performance to the specified requirement.

Hedging Against the End of the Combustion

At the same time, OEMs are also hesitant to commit their entire testing infrastructure to electrification testing. While OEMs are often all-in on electrification from a public perspective, product managers and engineers understand the value of being able to revert to combustion testing quickly, if necessary.

Retrofitting a combustion test facility for EV testing has the option of completely gutting the traditional fuel infrastructure. Increasingly, we’re speaking with companies on the feasibility of keeping combustion infrastructure in place while simultaneously upgrading the electric capabilities of the lab. This sort of repurposed hybrid testing space has the ability to provide value to the manufacturer.

This might mean upgrading infrastructure for fuel or cooling systems during the EV retrofit. The systems could remain abandoned in place but could be reactivated faster and at less cost than paying to gut and upgrade the system infrastructure when the need is pressing.

Supply Chain Challenges for Key Equipment

Supply chains remain an issue stretching out construction timelines. One of the greatest supply chain issues we’re seeing is the high demand for low, medium, and high voltage local power distribution equipment. Automotive OEMs testing higher capacity EV batteries are one of many sectors pushing this demand, particularly in the 480V (low voltage) distribution range.

The lead time for 480V switchgear ranges between 12 to 18 months and beyond, which can extend project timelines further than what would typically be considered reasonable. These extended durations on electrical infrastructure projects play a role in the automotive test equipment obsolescence and changing customer goals.

Mitigating the Risk of An Aging Design Plan

These are but three electric vehicle trends that contribute to approved design plans for EV test facilities aging through the life of the project. You can minimize this risk, and the risk of overpaying for future protection, with an experienced design partner and equipment integrator.

Working with an integrator at the early stages of a project gives you more control. A design partner experienced in combustion and electric testing can identify options and offer guidance when considering how to stay flexible and ready to support combustion testing while simultaneously upgrading to the cutting-edge automotive test equipment of the future.