Touting it as the largest and most technologically advanced battery lab in the United States, General Motors has opened the doors to a new 33,000 square-foot facility on the grounds of its Technical Center campus in Warren, Michigan. In addition to serving as the automaker's lead operation in all areas of advanced battery engineering and testing, this new Global Battery Systems Lab also will help expedite the development and marketing of the new GM's new generation of electrically-driven, plug-in, hybrid-electric and even fuel-cell vehicles. Four times larger than GM's existing Tech Center battery lab, the new lab will have a staff of 1,000 and further accelerate application of the research now being done at GM's two other key battery R&D centers in Honeoye Falls, New York and Mainz-Kastel, Germany. While some parts of the facility opened in January, the principal lab area, which contains 160 test channels and 42 individual thermal chambers capable of simulating all types of driving environments and weather conditions, only became operational in May.
According to Jim Queen, GM group vice president, Global Engineering, the lab offers huge functional advantages over the automaker's existing facilities. "More than half of the lab is dedicated to testing the electrochemical battery cells and their enclosures, known as modules, a capability not available in GM's previous battery lab. The lab's remaining floor space is committed to evaluating completed battery packs." Other elements enhancing its operational capabilities include a thermal shaker table that will allow more precise evaluation of a battery's structural integrity, dedicated teardown areas for conducting failure analysis and competitor benchmarking and an integrated test-automation system, all of which will permit quicker and more definitive assessments and improvements to be made.
Constructed within GM's Alternative Energy Center facility, the Global Battery Systems Lab also includes a host of environmentally-friendly features, including high-efficiency LED lighting and floors made from recycled tires. GM claims that nearly 90 percent of the electricity it will use for battery testing ultimately can be returned to the local energy grid.