The air is shimmering like in
the desert, while just a few metres away, it’s so cold you can build a snowman.
And there’s a category 5 hurricane in the next room. Welcome to the “Weather
Ford’s new state-of-the-art
Environmental Test Centre puts all the world’s weather under one roof, enabling
engineers to test forthcoming vehicles – from a small Ford KA+ to a two-tonne
Ford Transit in the most demanding conditions and make whatever weather they
want at any time of the day.
Altitudes higher than Mont
Blanc, the tallest Alpine peak, vehicle and wind speeds of up to 250 km/h (155
mph), snow, glaring sunlight and rain are among conditions that are a push of a
button away in Europe’s most advanced automotive environmental test centre.
On an area the size of a
football pitch, engineers can now take vehicles on demanding journeys around
the world, from the desert heat of the Sahara, to the arctic cold of Siberia
and the heavy humidity of Costa Rica.
“The vast range of punishing
simulation tests will enable Ford drivers to be confident their vehicles can
handle whatever climate zone they live in,” said Joe Bakaj, vice president,
Product Development, Ford of Europe. “Travelling to the four corners of this
building is like taking a trip to the four corners of the world, and our
engineers will do that around the clock, every day, to continue to develop
future best-in-class vehicles,” he added.
The subject of a €70 million
investment, the test centre offers the first automotive wind tunnel that can
simulate 5,200 metres, the same elevation as the Mount Everest North Base Camp,
and the first with such a range of conditions that can be simulated under one
roof. The facility can also cool two rooms to – 40 C and heat them up to 55 C,
as well as generate 95 per cent humidity. The temperature extremes make the
facility at Ford’s John Andrews Product Development Centre in Cologne, Germany,
the hottest, coldest and most humid place in Europe, and home to the highest
point in Western Europe.
Now fully operational,
engineers can work on up to ten different vehicles simultaneously. Testing
covers comfort, safety and durability, as well as electrical performance,
braking, air conditioning, trailer towing, cabin heating and traffic jam
situations. Engineers analyse the effects of high speed winds on exterior parts,
check the robustness against rain and snow, and see how fast a windscreen
defrosts at different temperatures.
“The Environmental Test Centre
represents a significant investment for Ford of Europe that will help enable
the company here to develop vehicles for global markets,” said Bakaj.
All Ford vehicles will be
tested in the facility, which features three climate wind tunnels, including a
high-altitude lab, and four temperature-controlled test chambers, one of which
will also facilitate humidity testing.
Source: Ford Motor Company