Volkswagen tests its EV batteries 5,000 ways for safety and durability
How long will your car last? Barring an accident, a vehicle purchased new should easily last a decade. With electric vehicles, the question of how long a car will last extends to the battery as well. Will you need to change out the battery of your Volkswagen ID.4 when it goes bad?
Volkswagen Group Components has spent the past several years developing ways to ensure the electric vehicle batteries of today meet the standards owners will expect today and in the future.
"Volkswagen tests almost every conceivable case that could affect the battery system during a vehicle's lifespan – from accidents to extreme temperatures," says Michal Bruna, Head of Electronics Development and Testing at the Battery Development Center of Volkswagen Group Components in Brunswick, Germany. "Every variant of an EV battery, including the software, has to prove its safety in more than 5,000 individual tests."
The battery pack is located at the bottom of the ID.4.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG
The types of tests Volkswagen uses are varied. They include the impact of mechanical shocks simulating those caused by curbs, railroad crossings, or stone ships. During a two-week vibration test, engineers simulate the life cycle of a vehicle of nearly 125,000 miles. Other tests include measuring the impact of temperature shocks, such as those that could occur when driving through cold water, and check the battery's durability under extreme climatic conditions. At the end of the 5,000 tests, each battery system is disassembled and examined.
There are also tests during the production of the battery system. The Center of Excellence in Salzgitter tests the quality of the battery cells, and Technical Development in Wolfsburg tests the cell modules. The software and control units are tested automatically via hardware-in-loop test benches. When each battery is produced, its functionality and safety is checked before it is delivered to the vehicle plant.
Battery electronics are required to meet high safety standards. On Volkswagen's MEB electric vehicle platform, which underpins the ID.4, the battery is located at the bottom center of the vehicle, between frame rails, with a protective metal shield between it and roadway.
Like other automakers, Volkswagen also offers free and easily available materials to first responders to help safely respond to an accident involving an electric vehicle, with directions for how to safely disengage power cabling around the battery and where to avoid cutting the vehicle.
"If the airbag deploys, the battery system is automatically disabled. It can only be started and recharged after a safety check," Bruna explained
Beyond the labs in Germany, Volkswagen is building a battery test lab in Chattanooga, Tennessee that will teat the cells and packs that will power U.S.-assembled ID.4s.