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Advanced Powertrain Research Facility:
Environmental Test Cell Allows Extremes of Hot and Cold

environmental test cell
Environmental Test Cell showing its solar lamps on the ceiling.

Inside Argonne’s new Environmental Test Cell (ETC), vehicle researchers are able to simulate a range of external temperatures—from frigid cold to blistering heat—in order to study the impact of temperature on the performance of electrified vehicles (EVs). The ETC is a major upgrade to Argonne’s world-class Advanced Powertrain Research Facility (APRF).

The ETC allows vehicles to be tested at a temperature range between 20°F to 95°F under simulated sunshine. Previously, Argonne researchers were only able to test from 72°F to 95°F without a solar load.

In addition, in the upgraded test cell researchers can now perform the new U.S. EPA 5-Cycle fuel economy certification test (used to calculate the fuel economy numbers posted on the window sticker of every new car).

With the addition of the ETC, Argonne’s already world-renowned electric-vehicle research program takes a significant leap forward. Researchers can now:

  • Study hot and cold effects on powertrain components and their influence on vehiclelevel control, and
  • Investigate vehicle accessory use, such as air conditioning, and the impacts on EV energy consumption.

The upgrade included a two-story building addition, refrigeration equipment and the utilities required to maintain 20°F in the test chamber even during a summer heat wave and a full solar spectrum array system mounted to the ceiling of the test chamber. The array is used during hot testing sessions (95°F) to replicate sun loading on a vehicle’s air conditioning system, enabling accurate measurement of the energy consumed in cooling the car’s interior. A large air blower unit, which can be regulated to match vehicle speed, was also added to simulate air movement across the vehicle as if it is being driven on the road.

The ETC is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Vehicle Technologies Program and is the only DOE vehicle R&D facility of its kind.


Glenn Keller

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