Intertek puts a spotlight on EV-related testing

  • 11-Nov-2011 02:52 EST
Intertek Plymouth 4.JPG

Intertek Project Engineer Jim Bryans initiates a battery test inside a test chamber at the firm's new Plymouth, MI, facility.


Recent upgrades to Intertek sites in China, Europe, and the U.S. reflect the automotive industry's worldwide push for testing space to certify electrified vehicle batteries, charging stations, and various EV ancillary components.

"Intertek is making significant investments in electric vehicle testing due to the global movement and momentum in 'green' renewable, clean, and/or cleaner energy technologies," according to Tim Hubbard, Intertek's Regional Vice President for Automotive & EV technologies.

The highlight of Intertek's EV-related testing emphasis is the July 2011 opening of a 100,000 ft² (9290 m²) Plymouth, MI, facility.

According to Rich Byczek, Intertek's Technical Lead for EV and Energy Storage, the new center's primary clients are providers of battery packs for passenger cars, midsize trucks, and other commercial vehicles.

The Plymouth facility currently is focused on life-cycle and performance testing for battery packs weighing 300 lb (136 kg) to those in excess of 2000 lb (907 kg).

"Our procedures include environmental simulation and charge/discharge profile testing, which can last as long as two years to mimic 10-15 years of field use. This type of testing is necessary to predict and reduce potential warranty, safety, and performance issues of the batteries and their control systems," Byczek explained.

Intertek's newest and largest EV-related test facility has the capacity to do 38 individual battery pack test channels as well as 130 channels dedicated for battery cells and modules.

In addition to durability and reliability tests, Intertek's Livonia facilities—which are located within 5 mi (8 km) of the Plymouth facility—provide battery safety certification for automotive and other industries.

"We do United Nations Transportation testing. Batteries must pass these tests to be considered safe for transport. Otherwise, the batteries must be handled as hazardous goods. We also do tests for Intertek's ETL mark, which is a North American safety certification for Li-ion batteries, battery chargers, and charging stations," said Byczek.

Other Intertek facilities with EV-focused testing are in San Antonio, TX; Shanghai, China; and Stockholm, Sweden.

Noted Hubbard, "Within our network, Intertek offers the total package of performance, abuse, and certification testing along with the advisory service aspects on a global basis. We can provide a full range of services in North America, Europe, and Asia."

Fuel fire and crash-impact simulation as well as crush penetration accent the type of battery abuse tests conducted at the 72-acre (29-ha) Texas site.

"The tests done at this Texas facility enable us to simulate the worst-case conditions that can be experienced in the field," Byczek noted.

Powertrain testing capabilities also have been expanded with the 2011 installation of a full hybrid powertrain dynamometer, capable of 480 hp (358 kW), at another Intertek facility in Texas.

"This system allows us to test the conventional gas engine, electric motor, or battery within a hybrid system, or simulate any portion of that system," explained Byczek.

Chemical engineers and technical specialists at Intertek's Sweden research lab perform a variety of tasks, including the modeling of new battery cell chemistries and the testing of up to 420-kW battery packs.

"This team also advises clients on battery and supplier selection as well as the auditing of battery manufacturing sites where clean-room conditions and rigorous handling procedures are mandatory to avoid the introduction of contaminants into the battery assembly process," said Byczek.

Although Intertek's China site launched in 2005 as an automotive component durability and reliability testing facility, EV battery testing now rounds out the center's capabilities.

"This facility recently added a full-pack battery cycler, so technical specialists can simulate the charge/discharge conditions on a battery under a variety of simulated environmental conditions," said Byczek.

EV-related components represent a large portion of Intertek's business.

"Many of the components for hybrid-electric and plug-in electric vehicles are being drastically redesigned and are incorporating new manufacturing or assembly methods, requiring a full suite of reliability and durability tests.

"As an example, fuse boxes must now allow separate control of every electrical circuit to conserve battery energy, and wire harnesses and switches must be designed to handle much higher voltages and currents than previous vehicles," said Byczek.

Hubbard points out that several market studies predict double-digit growth for EV-related business in the coming years.

"Intertek expects its EV activities to grow in relation to market development and technology adoption," noted Hubbard.

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