Ford has revealed details of its new €70m (US$82.4m) ‘weather factory’, where it can create a range of extreme weather conditions. Every new Ford model will be put through the automotive ‘torture chamber’ to ensure that they work in every environment.
The Environmental Test Centre in Cologne, Germany, features three climate wind tunnels, including a high-altitude lab and four temperature-controlled test chambers, one of which will also allow humidity testing.
There are two wind tunnels that can generate vehicle and wind speeds of up to 250km/h (155mph) for hot and cold immersion testing. These two tunnels can be heated to 55°C thanks to 28 spotlights with 4,00W bulbs, or cooled to -40°C, to test how quickly the cabin can be brought to a comfortable temperature, how visibility is affected, and how different systems cope with the extreme temperatures. Snow and rain can be generated in a controlled way. The third wind tunnel can simulate high altitudes (up to 5,200m) and combine them with wind speeds of up to 120km/h (75mph).
“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. “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.”
Overall, the facility requires 11MW of electricity – enough to power a town of 2,400 inhabitants – 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.
In the UK, Ford Dunton’s Environmental Test Laboratory has been capable of simulating altitudes up to 3,660m since 1999 – as well as temperatures from -40°C to 55°C.