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eLAB: Moving German Electric Vehicles to the Fast Lane




Daniel Kaltenbach 

IoT Sales Manager DACH and Russia, Hewlett Packard Enterprise


elAB_1.pngUS car manufacturer Tesla’s Model S is considered the electric vehicle (EV) with the most range, yet the EV battery mass market is dominated by China with a 70 percent market share. With the goal of making local car manufacturers leave the competition behind in this race, German technical university RWTH Aachen, in collaboration with partners, is exploring the future of battery production in its eLAB (Electric Mobility Lab). Digitization is to put German manufacturers in the pole position, but the heterogeneity of the systems and data sets involved puts obstacles in their path. This makes battery research a highly charged qualifying round for the connected factory. 

The road to IoT-connected production – labeled "Industry 4.0" in Germany – requires integration in three dimensions: a vertical one from the sensors to the ERP system, a horizontal one across the supply chain, and lifecycle integration from product development to maintenance. This can only succeed as a collaborative effort, as no organization can satisfy all requirements by itself. This is why, at eLAB, five RWTH institutes and 320+ enterprises are jointly working on digitally transforming production processes. The eLAB, designed like a factory building, allows for parallel testing of various procedures. It covers all production stages of battery manufacturing from raw materials to end-of-line testing.  


eLAB covers all process steps of battery production. 

Car battery production is a complex procedure involving chemical process steps as well as the interplay of mechanical and electronic components. On the data highway to the battery factory 4.0, data from various vendors’ machines needs to be collected, aggregated, and analyzed. The problem: Vendors use a variety of data formats; also, some vendors don’t allow third party data access, while in other cases, the machines don’t capture the needed data at all. 

At this point, eLAB partners Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) – responsible for eLAB’s operational concepts and the integration of participating components – National Instruments, OSIsoft, and PTC enter the race: National Instruments extracts missing machine data by means of retrofitting (retroactively adding sensors to machinery). This might be a temperature sensor, or high-frequency sensor technology, e.g. for detecting fissures in coating. 


Interplay of digitization solutions at RWTH Aachen’s eLAB 

Data aggregation and unified data processing is done on HPE’s Edgeline systems which combine data collection, data analysis, and machine control. They provide the core platform for all services delivered by the four IT partners. Aruba networking components fast-track LAN or WLAN data transmissions, while security technology such as Aruba ClearPass provides the guard rails. OSIsoft’s PI System takes care of machine data collection, storage, and structuring. Finally, PTC’s IoT platform ThingWorx allows production line data to be analyzed, visualized, and presented via user role-specific dashboards. 

A Variety of Use Cases
Digitization facilitates numerous use cases, from real-time monitoring to predictive maintenance. At eLAB, operational since mid-2017, three use cases have been implemented so far: 

* integration of data accumulated from heterogeneous machinery, 

* augmented reality- (AR-) assisted maintenance,

* condition and quality monitoring for improving battery quality, avoiding waste, and minimizing unplanned downtime.

eLAB_use cases.png

Use cases for digitally supported battery production 

At eLAB, one can, for example, have a look at augmented reality-assisted condition monitoring: Using AR glasses, the technician sees machine parameters including maintenance data, important e.g. for laser drying. With this method, electrode coating is not dried in an oven, but by means of a laser. With this occurring in a vacuum, measured parameters can only be accessed from outside. AR glasses enable a virtual view of this procedure. Additional use cases – e.g. asset tracking, energy management, and machine learning – will follow in the coming months.

eLAB demonstrates how, using the power of multi-vendor collaboration, future battery production can "put the pedal to the metal". If you want to have a look at this with your own eyes, assisted by AR glasses or not, you can do so at eLAB, or, from April 23rd to 27th, 2018 at HPE’s Hannover Messe booth (hall 6, booth A38).

 If you will not be attending Hannover Messe, you can still follow the updates from the show floor in a convenient way:

To find out how HPE can help your company collect and analyze data from connected assets, locations, and people to deliver actionable insights at the industrial edge, visit our Industrial IoT page

To learn more about HPE’s manufacturing solutions visit

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