Ateq guarantees that future generations of HEV/VE/VER/VE fuel cell vehicles will meet the highest quality standards.
Whether it's electric cars, trucks, buses or bicycles, the Ateq Group, a multinational with over 45 years' experience in measurement solutions, provides the quality processes automakers need to make fuel cell-equipped HEV/VE/VER/VE vehicles more efficient, faster and more reliable.
The use of leak testing in the mass production of electric vehicles is relatively recent, as the transport industry has been used to testing internal combustion engines and turbojet engines.
The move away from fossil fuels and CO2 has encouraged the development of new technologies. These new devices pose new challenges for leak testing on production lines.
Compared to the annual leak tests of an underwater electric motor or battery system, the daily leak tests of thousands of vehicle engines involve very different procedures.
E-mobility is no longer just for toys and prototypes.
E-vehicles range from electrically-assisted bicycles and fully electric motorcycles or scooters to fully electric or hybrid vehicles, small electric drones and even large flying devices.
With its technical orientation and culture of innovation, Ateq has found new ways of testing these components for mass production.
The first basic component of every battery is a cell. A battery is a collection of cells. To reduce weight, battery cells are often packed in flexible pouches. Ateq has developed a patent-pending leak-testing method for these cell pockets using ionized air technology. It enables pockets to be tested even without solvent evaporation.
The ionized air test can provide a leak test result for the entire pouch, and can also be used to locate the leak in the cell.
For metal-bodied cells, Ateq also has a test method that detects solvent evaporation.
Each battery cell has a semi-permeable membrane separating the positive and negative battery terminals. This cell undergoes a flow test before assembly to ensure that air passes through the membrane within the expected specifications, and that there are no unexpected holes in the membrane.
Cells can be packaged together in a module with a protective enclosure for easy handling. At this stage, the module casing is generally not watertight, but pressure decay leak tests are sometimes used to test the module casing.
Ateq offers a module balancing bench. A group of cells will not reach full load if the cells are not at the same load level. The module balancing bench is used to harmonize cell load levels during the manufacturing or maintenance process.
The cells or modules are packed together in watertight cases to protect against dust, water and mud splashes. This could be the 12 V battery of a conventional internal combustion engine vehicle, a small rechargeable bicycle battery, or a fully electric car battery. Leak tests all work in the same way.
These housings and battery covers are tested separately for leaks before the cells/modules are fitted inside. If the casing is plastic, a differential pressure decay test with noise elimination technology can be used to test for overall leaks in the battery covers. If you wish to locate the fault in the cover, an ionized air leak test can be used.
If the lid or tray is made of metal, only pressure reduction technology with noise suppression can be used. To locate leaks on a metal lid, perform formation gas leak detection (H2N2) and localization using a portable gas-sensitive H6000 detector. Ateq also offers to automate this test with an intelligent holding robot.
Once the cells and battery modules have been installed in the housing, a final leak test must be carried out. This can be carried out using pressure decay or air mass flow technology with very low pressure drop sensors to quickly measure leaks. DNC technology [Differential Noise Cancelling or differential noise elimination] from Ateq, which is patent-pending, blocks the fundamental conditions for reading leaks.
The housing is usually fitted with a semi-permeable membrane that allows the air pressure to equalize with atmospheric and temperature changes. This semi-permeable membrane lets air through, but not water.
Ateq has an air flow tester to test the breathing device to ensure that it is not double-stacked or pitted. The tester can also perform a wet test, which involves placing air on water to detect smaller defects in the sub-assembly.
Some batteries are fitted with a non-return valve instead of a breathing device, which releases the pressure generated by the gases emitted during charging. This non-return valve is tested with air pressure for openings, "cracking" pressure and flow rate, using an Ateq ERD leak tester.
Some large battery cases may be equipped with a liquid cooling system. The cooling circuit is also tested for leaks with an air tester.
For large battery failure analysis, a training gas sniffer can be used to locate leaks, as air leak tests cannot indicate leak locations. Gas sniffer leak tests are also useful for troubleshooting potential leaks in a device. The disadvantage of using a tracer gas leak test on large batteries is that tracer gas can take a long time to mix with the atmospheric air inside a battery if there is no tracer gas flow through the battery. It is advisable to completely evacuate atmospheric air from the battery tray or lid before pressurizing with tracer gas, as the tray/lid cannot withstand a high vacuum.
It is also advisable to monitor the tracer gas concentration on several sealed battery openings to check that the tracer gas has reached all corners of the battery.
Drawing on its experience with aviation battery testers, Ateq can manufacture customized battery testers that charge and discharge an entire battery.
A fuel cell creates chemical energy by combining hydrogen or any other fuel gas with oxygen from the air and converting it into electricity for the vehicle.
Fuel-side components are typically leak-tested with a mixture of 5 % H2 (hydrogen) and 95 % of N2 (nitrogen) called formation gas. Unlike pure hydrogen, forming gas is not flammable, and helps detect faulty areas through which hydrogen could pass. The air side is usually tested for leaks using an air pressure decay or mass flow instrument. The fuel cell's semi-permeable membrane must be tested for air flow, and the vehicle's cooling system is tested for leaks using an air tester.
Upstream fuel storage and distribution systems are also tested for leaks, with air or forming gas, depending on the application.
The electric motors that drive the wheels are housed in watertight casings that protect the motor from splashing water. A plastic motor housing can be tested using ionized air when unassembled. If the housing is metal, or fully assembled, it can be tested using air.
Motor coil wires are coated with an insulating "varnish". Sometimes this "varnish" cracks, mainly where the wires are bent. Ateq has developed a test to detect this defect using ionized air technology.
The new electric vehicles also feature automated driver assistance, which uses sensors to sense the environment. Whether the sensors are cameras, lidars or anything else, they are housed in watertight casings as they are exposed to the elements. Ateq also tests TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) sensors, during wheel and vehicle assembly and maintenance.
It's also a good idea to perform an air-tightness test on these sealed collectors.
Sometimes, a car battery just can't handle a fast enough charge. Energy must therefore be stored in a large capacitor to prevent breakdown. Ateq has an instrument designed to safely discharge these capacitors before servicing the vehicle.
In addition to the new leak-testing applications of electric vehicles, it's important to bear in mind that many traditional leak-testing applications still exist in an e-vehicle, such as braking systems, headlights, taillights, ABS and central electronics, steering components and air-conditioning systems, for example.
With the accelerating technological evolution of fuel cell HEVs/VEs/VERs/VEs, OEMs need to bring new models to market faster than ever to stay competitive. However, this means that vehicle manufacturers will face many new challenges during the manufacturing process, such as: the growing complexity of new vehicles, new technologies that are not yet fully mastered, and increased pressure to achieve the highest level of quality to avoid safety risks and vehicle recalls.
To meet these new challenges, Ateq offers leak, flow, battery and TPMS test instruments to guarantee the quality of numerous components throughout the electric vehicle manufacturing process.