When automakers design and build cars, the cars have to survive anything drivers might throw at it (other than wrecks). Nissan found out the hard way that selling vehicles without liquid cooling systems may work in Japan and other places with a more gentle climate, but when people started driving them in hot deserts, things didn’t go so well for the battery packs. But, that’s a problem they’ve since solved (better late than never, right?).
Another actually good example of this is the trucks people love to hate. Today’s half-ton pickups tend to have giant front grilles that some describe as “gaping maws,” and angles that aren’t fantastic in the even of a collision with a pedestrian. But, today’s half-ton pickups are rated to tow more and lay down more power than ever before, and they have to be designed to do all of this in the worst conditions it might encounter (say, pulling a 10,000 lb trailer from Phoenix to Flagstaff in late June), so the cooling system has to be huge.
So, love it or hate it, vehicles have to be not only designed for the worst, but have to pass real-world testing to avoid nasty surprises. That’s why a recent press release from Polestar is so important.
The Al Ain desert in the United Arab Emirates is a challenging testing environment for car companies due to its extreme temperatures, reaching up to 50 degrees Celsius (or, 122 degrees Fahrenheit, like Phoenix, Arizona). The UAE cities also present high humidity levels, with Dubai reaching up to 90% on hot days. Clément Heinen, the Product Attribute Leader, faced these conditions as part of the Polestar 3 test team.
“The moments you capture testing in the UAE you might not notice anywhere else in the world. In the peak of summer, it’s just about the most extreme place you would ever expect a customer to drive,” said Heinen. “We go there because no amount of simulation can mimic a real-world test. You can run a marathon on a treadmill, but it’s very different doing it in real life.”
Testing a car in a controlled environment can only reveal so much about its real-world performance. To ensure the high standards of Polestar 3, a trip to the UAE deserts was crucial. The goal was to define the car’s identity, specifically focusing on maintaining cool and comfortable interiors. Testing in extreme temperatures of up to 50 degrees C proved the car’s capabilities in even the most remote and demanding conditions.
The Polestar 3 test cars underwent rigorous temperature tests to ensure seamless integration of software and hardware. From extreme cold in northern Sweden to scorching desert heat, every detail was fine-tuned to provide a consistent cabin temperature experience.
“When cooling the cabin, there is also the added challenge of cooling the battery. The entire cooling system needs to maintain the correct temperatures for the battery pack and the cabin itself. The team have a huge mix of things that can require power for cooling, so we spend weeks and months debating strategies to best deliver efficiency, cabin comfort and battery cooling,” said Heinen
The comprehensive overview of the car’s systems empowers the testing team to develop strategies and software that customers won’t even perceive. When executed flawlessly, this enables you to effortlessly navigate your EV through scorching 50-degree deserts while enjoying utmost comfort.
Why This Matters
When it comes to temperatures, it would probably be easier to drive a Polestar 3 in Phoenix, wouldn’t it? I mean, a number of automakers have their own private tracks in the Phoenix metro area to test cars in the heat. I know GM, Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler, Ford, Volkswagen, and even John Deere all have places to test out their vehicles and implements in the hot, hot sun.
But, that’s just one hot place among several globally. Phoenix tends to have a “dry heat” (so do campfires, but you don’t want to put your butt in one of those), while other hot places could have much greater relative humidity. Also, sometimes cars hate sand as much as Anakin Skywalker, and some places have a lot more of the coarse and irritating stuff than Phoenix does. As Darth Vader, he lived on Mustafar (a lava planet) for years, and loved personally leading military detachments, but wouldn’t touch Tatooine again.
My point is that cars can be like him, and a dry, dusty heat can be less damaging than a humid, sandy heat. So, like all auto manufacturers, you have to test the car in all of the places it might end up.
Polestar doesn’t get into it much in the release, but they briefly talk about testing the vehicle in sub-zero temperatures, too. I personally have only seen sub-zero in my hometown one time (during a record freeze in 2011), but what’s unusual to me is perfectly routine for people living in places like Alaska or Northern Europe. A car that works in Los Angeles and the Southwest but goes to hell in a handbasket below freezing isn’t a great car for global sales. So automakers also have private tracks in cold places to test the car’s performance and durability.
On top of that, it’s not just extreme temperatures that car manufacturers need to consider. They also have to take into account variations in terrain, elevation, and road conditions. This includes testing the vehicle on different types of roads such as highways, city streets, unpaved roads, and even off-road trails. After all, even a street-oriented crossover vehicle will occasionally be owned by some fool who will take it on Forest Service roads, right?
And, they have to be ready for things to go very wrong. Car manufacturers have to ensure that their vehicles meet safety standards and regulations set by different countries and regions. This means conducting crash tests, emissions testing, and other evaluations to make sure the vehicle can be legally sold in various markets (homologation), and they can’t assume that cheating on these tests is a good idea (yes, I’m talking about Dieselgate).
Finally, as technology continues to advance, modern cars are equipped with a variety of electronic systems such as navigation, entertainment, and safety features. These systems need to be thoroughly tested to ensure they work properly under different conditions and won’t malfunction when drivers need them the most. Car manufacturers have dedicated teams that focus on testing these systems and continuously improving their performance.
Almost all of this need to either be tested in real-world conditions, or be tested in as close to a real-world scenario as possible. Anything less guarantees at least some customers are going to hate you.
Featured image provided by Polestar.
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