E-mobility put to the test: High-voltage tests on batteries

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Naima Seddouk knows exactly how software for battery management systems has to perform. To ensure that the batteries for the latest electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz meet the highest safety and performance requirements even in demanding situations, she and her team put the software through its paces, pushing the applications to their limits with powerful test rigs. In her interview, the engineer explains why Hulk is sometimes used in system tests with particularly high voltage and what her preference for American series has to do with her start at Mercedes-Benz.

Ms Seddouk, what is important when you test the battery management system software for the new generation of electric vehicles at Mercedes-Benz?

Quite a lot (laughs). Battery management systems are extremely complex. Some of the software we test has to meet up to 15,000 different criteria before it gets into the vehicles. Safety and performance are of course the focus. One important task of the software is, for example, to prevent the battery cells from overheating, even under permanently high stress. In addition, there are very practical tasks, for example, the applications calculate the remaining battery charge during the journey and the range is determined on the basis of this, which is then displayed to the driver.

"The software we test has to meet up to 15,000 criteria before it goes into the vehicles. Safety and performance are of course the focus."

And how do you and your team ensure that the software reliably fulfils all these functions?

For this purpose, we develop special "hardware in the loop" test benches that are precisely tailored to the respective battery management system. This allows us to simulate each individual cell of the battery in our laboratory and check whether the software reacts correctly to the various situations. However, our tests go far beyond the loads that battery management systems are later exposed to in vehicles on the road - so we really push the systems to their limits. If we detect malfunctions, we feed this back to our software developers. Only when the software meets all the requirements does it actually get to real batteries and later into the vehicles.

How can we imagine your test lab?

Our systems need a lot of space, so we also have a lot of floor space. You can imagine our test benches like giant game consoles, with LEDs flashing everywhere in the racks and orange wiring - there's a lot of high-tech in there. My staff always joke and have given our test stations famous names. For demanding tests, we sometimes use Hulk - where we can test very high voltages, which is no mean feat.

Tell us a little more about your team ..

We are 17 colleagues in total. The team is roughly divided into two disciplines: The system engineers develop the test benches and models. And the test engineers design and accompany the trials. What makes my team is the close cooperation. Everyone supports everyone. For me as a manager, it is important that the team spirit fits and that all my employees feel comfortable and enjoy their work. When I select a new team member, it's not only the technical aspects that count, but also the personality.

Speaking of a "new team member": How did you actually come to join Mercedes-Benz?

Actually, I've been with Mercedes-Benz all my professional life. I am originally from France and studied engineering at the École Polytechnique in Nantes. Then I had the opportunity to do an internship at Mercedes-Benz and came to Stuttgart for my master's thesis . I hardly knew any German at that time and was completely new in a foreign country, but going to the factory with the big silver star above the gate every day was simply the greatest thing for me. I've been in love with the "Mercedes-Benz" brand since I was a teenager (laughs).

Can you explain this particular link in more detail?

This has to do with my preference for American series. In my youth I was probably the biggest fan of "Dallas". My favourite character in the series, for example, had a great red Mercedes SL - an incomparable car model. Mercedes-Benz cars simply have their own class and elegance. I said to myself: At some point you want to work for this company - and luckily that's what happened.

After your studies, you then held various positions in engine development. How did your switch to electromobility come about?

That is true. Directly after my master's thesis, I was involved in the design of the basic engines for our passenger car and commercial vehicle models, among other things. Later, I became team leader for the concept evaluation of the powertrain of our hybrid and pure electric vehicles. That's how I gradually approached the topic of electromobility. The topic has a very special appeal for me as an engineer: Electric drives and digitalisation are crucial for a more sustainable future of mobility ..

And both topics are relevant pillars of the Mercedes-Benz corporate strategy!

Exactly. And the potential of e-mobility and digitalisation can be best exploited when the two go hand in hand. This overarching approach is lived out at Mercedes-Benz and further deepened with the corporate strategy. By way of example, two years ago, I launched the #Batterydata project together with colleagues from very different fields. With this, we evaluate the battery data provided by our vehicles on the roads, naturally under high data protection standards. The results provide us with a solid basis for further improving the software and hardware components of our battery systems. All thanks to digitalisation. And with MB.OS we are just creating the conditions to take the next big step in development.

Finally, we have a personal question for you: Who do you think deserves a prize from your immediate environment - and for what?

That would clearly be my mother. She raised me and my siblings alone and at the same time had to somehow provide for our living. We even had to move several times: I was born in Brittany and later we moved to Nantes. That was certainly not easy. Nevertheless, she has always remained positive. It inspires me to this day how she managed it all. She really deserves a lifetime achievement award.

Born in Brittany, Naima Seddouk (44) has always been fascinated by technology - even as a child she can get excited about aeroplanes and model cars as well as dolls when playing. During her school years, she discovered her penchant for natural sciences and eventually decided to study engineering at the École Polytechniques in Nantes. For her master's thesis at Mercedes-Benz, Naima Seddouk moved to Stuttgart and subsequently held various positions in engine development. Today, when she and her team are not ensuring that the software for the battery management systems for the latest electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz meet the highest standards, she loves to spend time in her garden. Caring for her plants is the best way for her to switch off.