Does EV Material Testing Need to Get Physical?

ZwickRoell's Jan Stefan Roell discusses the need of physical testing in EV development.

A number of its vendors had products on display during ZwickRoell’s annual International Forum for Materials Testing in Ulm, Germany, including the all-electric e.Go Life car from start-up e.GO Mobile AG. (ZwickRoell)

As the CEO of the ZwickRoell Group, Dr. Jan Stefan Roell oversees a multi-industry, materials-testing business. The family-owned company’s history of invention includes the first hydraulic materials testing machine from the 1880s. In late 2019, during its 28th annual International Forum for Materials Testing at the firm’s headquarters in Ulm, Germany, Dr. Roell (below) sat down with Automotive Engineering to discuss how crucial physical testing will be for the future of electrified mobility.

Automotive Engineering: What are the underlying needs of materials testing equipment?

Dr. Jan Stefan Roell: There are several dimensions. Customers are asking for more automation on the test to avoid human errors, and they’re asking for more data integration to facilitate the flow of data. It’s also important that we continue to focus on the sensors that are built into the testing machines. The overall aim is to get reliable test results, which we define as being accurate, repeatable, re-producible and traceable.

AE: How does ZwickRoell define intelligent testing?

JSR: Let’s assume you’re a lab manager, and you have tests to do. There are many possibilities of how to go about doing those tests. If you need to test according to industry standards, you have to find out what a specific standard indicates for the speed of the test, how to measure the elongation of the test specimen and so on. We have read all of the standards, and we have translated that information into test programs. So from our library, you can download a test program and we’ll take over the responsibility that the test will be done according to the standard.

AE: What are a couple of intelligent testing examples?

JSR: Intelligent testing has many layers. For instance, if the wrong load sensor is in the test machine, the test won’t start and the machine will indicate that a different load sensor is needed. If the software determines that a sensor is not calibrated, you’ll be asked if you want to continue with an uncalibrated sensor. If the answer is yes, then the test results will be marked accordingly. There are many other examples, but all of this intelligent testing helps to elicit repeatable, reliable test results.

AE: Is the future more customized test equipment?

JSR: We will see lots of customized test equipment for the next couple of years. The reason for that is the automotive industry is trying to find out what tests are needed for new concepts. As companies move toward a concept, they ask us for specialized equipment. We’ll see more standardization of test equipment as the industry moves to the new concepts for battery cell testing, for specific sensor testing and for lightweight material testing. We typically build a customized test machine whenever a new application pops up. But if a new concept becomes the norm, it becomes easier for us to standardize the equipment.

AE: Does the company plan to stray from being a physical testing provider?

JSR: We are totally focused on physical testing. And with a sole focus on physical testing, this is an advantage. We have excellent competitors. But some of our competitors are part of big companies, or they are divisions of big companies. We are solely focused on physical testing, and we will stay focused on physical testing. We’re also a family owned business, so we don’t need to please the market. We need to please the customers.