Mahle Powertrain open state-of-the-art centre at old Cosworth HQ

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As transport shifts towards a greener future, established UK brands and fresh start-ups are working to ensure bikes have a decent future.

Now Northampton-based Mahle Powertrain, part of a larger global firm, are upping their investment in biking with a new facility specialising in battery development and manufacture – all housed in the building that birthed the iconic Ford Sierra Cosworth.

Mahle were born from the remnants of Cosworth’s road division with an HQ that also houses one of just four climate and altitude testing rigs in Europe. It means they can test powertrains in conditions from -40 to +60°C, humidity between 10 and 80% and replicate altitudes up to 5000m.

MAHLE equipment being put to work

In addition to the new battery development centre, which will test new and existing units to their limits, Mahle have announced a collaboration with Vepro – an engineering consultancy with decades of experience in motorcycle development, led by mechanical engineer Neil Wright.

Combined they aim to help drive the sector’s innovation, and invited MCN along for an exclusive chat.

“Over the last five years you wouldn’t believe how much battery technology has moved on and it is still moving on. We are having to talk to manufacturers all the time to understand what’s on their road map and what’s coming,” Mahle’s John Hollingworth told MCN.

“We’ve conducted projects with different types of battery technology such as lithium carbon batteries where we did a study using carbon battery technology for scooter delivery vehicles for fast food deliveries where you could come in and you could charge that battery in 45 seconds.

White Motorcycle Concepts have worked with MAHLE

“It only had a limited range of about 10 miles, but that’s enough if you’re only delivering a pizza,” the Mahle man added. “I don’t know what the solution is, but that’s the whole point of what we’re here for, to set the challenge and let the engineers find a solution.”

In late February the firm announced a project alongside White Motorcycle Concepts to deliver an all-electric version of their WMC300FR hybrid three-wheeler first response vehicle. The project is supported by a grant from the Niche Vehicle Network, the Department for Transport, and Innovate UK, with the finished bike based around Yamaha’s Tricity 300.

It’s hoped the partnership will accelerate innovative answers to the challenges faced by brands big and small as they move towards greater sustainability. Working closely, the partnership will, says Wright, allow ‘maximum flexibility’.

John Hollingworth and Neil Wright talk to MCN at MAHLE

It’s not all about battery manufacturing either with the partnership also looking into hybrid, hydrogen and synthetic fuel analysis to explore all avenues of change ahead of any future Government mandates.

But with all innovations there are stumbling blocks. For example, manufacturers looking at hybrids will find challenges getting the power from two separate units, smoothly through one drivetrain. For electric bikes, it is the demand for quicker charge times, and the heat that generates, which is problematic due to the lack of room for fans or other cooling devices.