Artificial Intelligence

‘Weather factory’ puts cars through their paces

18th June 2018
Alex Lynn

A new Environmental Test Centre has been opened by Ford, the centre puts all the world’s weather under one roof, enabling engineers to test vehicles in demanding conditions.

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 of Product Development at 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.”

The subject of a €70m investment, the test centre offers an automotive wind tunnel that can simulate 5,200m, as well as simulating a range of conditions under one roof. The facility can also move the temperature from -40 to 55°C, as well as generate 95% humidity.

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.

Michael Steup, Project Manager for the Environmental Test Centre at Ford of Europe, said: “We can see how windshield wipers function in Arctic temperatures, how engine performance changes in extreme heat and cold, and even how much snow falls on the driver’s head when they open the door. It’s an engineer’s dream,”

Overall, the facility requires 11MW of electricity, which comes from a fully renewable, environmentally-friendly source. The electricity provided by RheinEnergie originates from certified sustainable sources in Scandinavia and covers the complete electric power demand of Ford's facilities in the city.

See the 'weather factory' in action here.

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