Volkswagen’s New Battery Torture Testing Lab Replicates America’s Awful Road Conditions

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As an American, you can’t help but be frustrated at the awful road conditions that most of the country is plagued with. From cracks and fractures to potholes and broken roads, American roads are not exactly ideal for motorists. Thousands of miles of roads are decaying all around the country, in every nook and cranny.

If you take a look at the data from DoT, nearly half of all the roads in the US are in poor or mediocre condition. It doesn’t exactly scream “great”. To put things into perspective, 70% of the roads in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oklahoma and Rhode Island are in poor condition. If you are living in any of these states, you might want to invest in a vehicle with a better suspension unit and handling characteristics. To make an informed purchase, do visit CarHP; we provide curated lists, detailed reviews and comparisons to help you on your car purchase journey.

On the flip side, you could get away with a stiff ride if you live in Nevada, Georgia, or Indiana.  Only less than 20% of their road network is in poor condition compared to the national average of 49%. Speaking of that, it isn’t just the roads; some of the bridges are also in awful condition.

Thanks to Volkswagen and their recent investment, they recently opened up a lab in Chattanooga, Tennessee to support the production of the ID.4 electric SUV. It is a $22 million, 32,000 square-foot torture testing lab. The engineers are trying to simulate these awful road conditions in the lab to make sure that when the cars hit the road, they are able to withstand whatever is thrown at them. Let us take a look at what the lab can simulate and if it indeed emulates American road conditions.

Electric Multi-Axial Shaker Table (eMAST)

We start off with fancy-sounding equipment. You’d be surprised to know that this eMAST is only one of the three in the entire United States region. This piece sits on top of a 90×90-foot pit that is around 20 feet deep. At the bottom of the drop, you would find a 4-foot-thick concrete slab. And on top of that, there is an 8-foot pedestal that chains the entire machinery. It is basically responsible for keeping the rest of the building safe from all the tests. It is a 13-minute test that simulates a drive down on a bad road; this battery functionality test is conducted at varying temperatures and actually shakes the entire car to its core.

Earthquake simulator

This machine is found in a test chamber of 12x12x9 feet in dimensions. This device has been manufactured by Weiss Technik and it uses six actuators to simulate an earthquake. The device can create motion in fore/aft, left/right, and up/down directions and can also rotate. This machine is used to help generate an earthquake as each ram can generate a force of 16,000 lbs.

Mini Shaker Table

The mini shaker table is only meant for testing smaller battery components not weighing more than 220 lbs each. The chamber is about 3 cubic feet and it is a multi-axis shaking device with eight actuators. It can also control the temperature. It can reach as high as 480-degree F to simulate the ultimate temperature test.

Thermal Shock Chamber

This definitely sounds cool as hell and can be the name for a supervillain’s super weapon. However, in reality, this chamber is actually responsible for plunging the battery from extremely cold temperatures to extremely hot temps in a matter of minutes. This does happen in real life too. This test checks whether the battery can handle such a rapid change in temperature. The battery is mounted to a shuttle with insulated end plates. It allows the battery to move from one side to the other in 15 seconds. Earlier, this used to be manual, but now it has been automated. It saves a lot of time and also allows for more rigid testing.

Water Immersion Tank

You may or may not know this, but driving through water-logged roads can actually hurt your battery. Sudden water contact might stress an aluminum battery case, seals, and fasteners among other things. That’s why, to make sure the battery is able to survive this, Volkswagen has implemented this water immersion tank test. First, they heat the battery up to 140-degrees and then plunge it into 40-degree water for around 5 minutes. This test is repeated 20 times and there is always a big chiller to make sure that the temperature of the water remains the same during the entire test duration.

Arizona Dust Intrusion

You know how a dust storm can affect your car. This machinery can blow Arizona Dust (which are silica particles ranging from 1 to 124 microns) from all four directions at a rate of around 2,600 cubic feet per minute. 20 test cycles, each 20 minutes long, are conducted. And this test makes sure that the battery doesn’t fall prey to dust intrusion.

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