AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – FEV North America Inc. is looking to a new facility to boost its automotive testing business.
The company’s Vehicle Development Center (VDC) in Auburn Hills, Mich., opened in December 2018. The $15 million, 26,000-square-foot facility joins a FEV power training development center and a technical campus, also in Auburn Hills.
The VDC reflects increasing demand for emissions testing as well as performance of new vehicles and parts under heat or cold. At the center, testing can take place from minus-4 degrees F to 104 degrees F.
Automakers and major tier-one suppliers need more facilities for testing. Another driver is development of electric and hybrid vehicles, whose performance and range are affected by weather conditions.
“This test center has all the bells and whistles,” said Dean Tomazic, executive vice president and chief technical officer. “It’s one-stop shopping.”
The VDC includes an all-wheel drive adjustable dynamometer. It’s capable of testing a range of vehicles from light-duty up to Class 2B trucks and vans. Vehicles weighing up to 11,000 lb can be tested on the dynamometer. The center has room for a second dynamometer to be built if there’s sufficient demand.
Previously, FEV had to lease testing facilities from automakers and other companies. That sometimes meant getting in line with other users. On some occasions, that meant leasing testing facilities far from Michigan, meaning extra shipping costs and other expenses. It’s also increasingly harder to lease testing time as demand rises.
“There really is a strong need for this,” said Alan Bedewi, lead engineer at FEV.
What’s more, FEV customers crave confidentiality. FEV, part of Aachen, Germany-based FEV Group, opted to construct the VDC to get more control over the testing process.
“We have to have this flexibility, we have to be in charge,” Tomazic said. “This is what you have to do if you want to do advanced emissions research. It’s much easier to retain that confidentiality” with customers by not using outside vendors. “From a customer perspective, Its important if we can keep it in-house.”
The VDC allows FEV to conduct testing covering emission standards in different regions. Future standards in the United States are in flux as the Trump administration wants to ease up on regulations. However, China, the world’s largest automotive market, is aggressively tightening standards in an attempt to reduce air pollution. The European Union also is toughening standards.
The VDC was designed so it could test for “all different future requirements,” Tomazic said.
The company says development of electric vehicles will be an important business for the VDC. Using the dynamometer, EVs can run until their batteries are dead. There’s no worry about that happening on a road test and then having to make arrangements for the EV to transported back.
Thermal management is another major business for the VDC. For example, with electric vehicles can batteries be kept warm in the cold or cooled when it’s hot. The VDC will support other FEV programs including fuels research and climatic testing.
The VDC is beginning operations on a single shift. The company says it will be at capacity, with two shifts, in three to four months. “We’ll see how that evolves,” Tomazic said.