US Army Lab pushes energy tech to the extreme

What contains 30,000 square feet of research space, eight state-of-the-art labs and one of the world’s largest environmental testing chambers capable of testing equipment in temps ranging from minus 60 F to 160 F?

The U.S. Army’s new Ground Systems Power and Energy Laboratory (GSPEL), slated to open today, which will be home to advanced research and testing for army tech in a number of areas, including power, fuel cell, hybrid electric components and energy storage.

The facility was constructed as a comprehensive addition to the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center’s laboratory system at Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Mich., and offers an unmatched combination of resources in a single lab, according to TARDEC Interim Director Jennifer Hitchcock.

“GSPEL gives the Army overarching, full-spectrum testing and evaluation capabilities,” she said in a statement. “The Army’s best and brightest ground systems research scientists, engineers and technicians will work in this unique facility to drive innovation for tomorrow’s energy solutions.”

Two of the labs at this facility most focused on that particular mission are the Power and Energy Vehicle Environmental Lab (PEVEL) and the Calorimeter Lab.

PEVEL is the new facility’s centerpiece, home to one of the world’s largest environmental chambers. By enabling testing at extremely hot and cold temperatures, and in relative humidity levels from 0 to 95 percent and with winds up to 60 mph, the lab’s dynamometer and environmental chamber combo allows full mission profile testing for every ground vehicle platform in the military inventory in any environmental condition imaginable.

Likewise, calorimeters are commonly used in vehicle testing facilities to measure the heat of chemical reactions, physical changes and heat capacity. GSPEL’s Calorimeter Lab goes beyond the norm by giving researchers the capability to test radiators, charge-air coolers and oil coolers individually, or all three simultaneously.

Together, these labs—along with those used to test new technology in the areas of air filtration, thermal management, power, fuel cell, hybrid electric components and energy storage—are expected to help change the way military vehicles make use of energy.

* Susan DeFreitas, EarthTechling