Toyota opens first test course at new US$2.7bn R&D facility in Japan

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Toyota Motor Corporation has completed work on the central section of its new research and development facility – the Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama. Located in a mountainous area surrounding the cities of Toyota and Okazaki, the center is approximately 30 minutes from the OEM’s head office.

By the time the center is fully operational in 2023, Toyota will have invested a total of around 300bn yen (US$2.7bn). The necessary sites continue to be acquired with construction taking place incrementally. Some 3,300 people will be employed at the site eventually.

The section of the facility that is now open features a 5.3km (3.3 mile) test course that simulates a winding country road. Based on the company’s experience of driving the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit, Toyota has designed a test course that takes advantage of local topography and features a roughly 75m (246ft) change in elevation between its highest and lowest points, as well as a wide range of curves and corners. Around 50 people are based at the facility, most of whom are test drivers.

Surrounded by greenery, the complete facility will also include an eastern section with a high-speed test course, tracks that replicate road surfaces from around the world, and a western section that includes numerous different vehicle development facilities.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda, said at the opening, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Aichi prefecture, the cities of Toyota, and Okazaki, and above all, to the local residents of Shimoyama for their invaluable assistance, consideration, and cooperation over the long period from concept to build.

“With the aim of making ever-better cars, we have continued to make various efforts in ‘feeling the road’ and ‘conversing with cars’ through driving tests around the world, including our Five Continent Drive Project and our participation in the Nürburgring 24-Hour race. Based on such experiences we have replicated a variety of roads from across the world at the new test facility. In addition to conducting tests all over the world, and with the severe driving conditions at the center, we intend to thoroughly hone every one of our models and develop the types of cars that epitomize the true joy of driving,” he continued.

“We also have plans to develop a test course for high-speed driving evaluations and a specialized test track that will replicate unique roads worldwide in an eastern section. In the western section we’ll build other facilities for vehicle development.

Toyoda added, “Environmental conservation was a big consideration in the construction. Around 70% of the site (approximately 650ha) consists of trees and greenery that have been preserved, in addition to newly developed green spaces. We intend to cooperate with experts, local governments, and communities in the vicinity of the facility to conduct environmental conservation initiatives in the forest and valley bottom rice fields of this valuable satoyama [a Japanese term referring to hills and forests located near communities that are deeply linked to human life]ecosystem.”

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Rachel's career in journalism has seen her write for various titles at UKi Media & Events within automotive, tire and marine. Currently editor of ATTI, her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the groundbreaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of transportation.

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