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There are admittedly a lot of exciting jobs at Daimler. But I am particularly fond of mine when it takes me and the entire expert team to the cold of Sweden or, as in this case, to the heat of Spain. Then it’s a bit like a school trip, just without beach and with a lot of work involved.
For a few weeks we are working intensively, together at all times and working in shifts around the clock. In the middle of his working life, who still has the opportunity to experience team spirit, such as on a school trip and project work as well as during studies?
Around 40 engineers and test drivers working in the fields of test driving, electric propulsion development, body components, electronics, acoustics and the quality functions of the start-up factory and production plant have spent several weeks working together in the desert in southern Spain.
You are all familiar with the images, but more likely from westerns such as “Once Upon a Time” and “Trinity is Still My Name”. Because the place where we carried out the overall vehicle testing for the EQC was used as a location for some classic movies. And it is just how you would expect it to be: scorchingly hot (36° C or more …), dusty, arid.
The difference this time is that our EQC prototypes are the “film stars”, because we were producing the first images and films of the testing process together with our colleagues from the Marketing and Press departments. Additional there are several international journalists, who reported live from the location of the Mercedes-Benz vehicle testing.
Our test program was planned out in detail by the drive managers Patrick Stolz and Peter Dosch: like a school timetable. Instead of maths in the morning there was installed part testing, and in the afternoon we validated the propulsion system and control units instead of sports. In the evenings, instead of partying the test drivers had to rack up the kilometers and running hours. In short, it was exciting, intense and challenging.
The overall burden on the test drivers and vehicles become extreme at times during the weeks of testing the EQC. The heat and dust, cobblestones with potholes, poor-quality roads, urban driving situations and high-speed driving put so much stress on the test vehicles that the aging of the vehicles following the test drive is equivalent to a mileage of approximately 80,000 to 100,000 Kilometers under several years in real conditions.
And for good reason, because we all know that theory is very different to practice. And it is only possible to reliably test the endurance of components and systems by putting the electronics and mechanics to work. It’s clear that the EQC must comfortably meet all of the test requirements of a Mercedes.
By the way, here you can see how the first press photographs turned out:
Hot & arid
It goes without saying that our work focused on different aspects. The number one challenge in Spain was the dry heat. Because while the cold “only” reduces the performance of an electric car’s battery, significant heat poses the risk of damage.
One of the aims of our extreme tests is to optimize battery management to achieve the best possible efficiency and range. Testing therefore focused on the battery’s cooling system, for example. Different operating conditions, tough performance requirements and charging conditions in the heat were recorded and analyzed using computers.
Another central subject of testing was the interior air conditioning – both during and before driving, because preliminary air conditioning is an important comfort factor for our customers. The selected journalists who accompanied us on journeys were very appreciative.
We investigated questions such as “Is the specified time sufficient for preliminary air conditioning?” and “Is the range calculated by the EQC’s on-board computer correct, taking the temperature into account?” together. But the test team also looked at the noise behaviors of individual components such as the air conditioning compressor in warm conditions.
In warm countries in particular the vehicles have to cool down very quickly. This can be achieved almost silently by the EQC, which has not been possible for any other conventional combustion-powered vehicle.
But that is also an art in itself. The electric air conditioning compressor has to create a pleasant temperature quickly and efficiently. The vehicle needs to be heated as much as possible in order to test and calibrate this. So we left it standing in the punishing desert sun in order to then cool the interior temperature back down to 22° C using the installed air conditioning technology.
Our engineers then ran through defined testing programs with the pre-cooled vehicle, constantly testing the interior temperatures at the same time. Can the vehicle maintain the set temperature? Are comfortable interior conditions guaranteed? … What ultimately counts is the comfort of our customers – and we will work toward this until we have achieved the best possible solution.
Covered in dust
The dust and sand of the Tabernas Desert not only pose an additional challenge for people but also for machines (in this case our EQC test vehicle). We wanted to know where they could accumulate in the components, and whether the sealing concept works in practice.
To this end we took a close look at the vehicle and took the individual components apart in “body checks” developed specifically for such situations. These are usually carried out after each night drive, as the vehicles have usually spent hours driving over dusty routes.
You can find out more details about how every Mercedes is tested (in this case the EQC, the first “baby” of the new EQ technology brand).
After spending several exciting, trying and informative weeks in the desert, my fellow testers and I are returning to the relative coolness of southern Germany. Here we will continue to work on the maturity in order to make the EQC ready for its big performance in Sweden in September, when it will be presented to the global public.
If you are now slightly envious of our job: Don’t worry. Spending weeks away from home has its downsides despite all of the desert sunshine. But all in all we conclude:
We are proud of the first member of our EQ family, as well as the first-rate teamwork!