Ford’s Environmental Test Center Replicates Extreme Climates and Conditions for New Vehicle Testing
It’s essential that a new vehicle meet the rigorous demands of all different climates, be it persistent cold or overwhelming heat. To make sure that every offering in its global lineup is adaptable to the needs of drivers everywhere, Ford calls upon its “Weather Factory” to put its cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans to the test.
The Environmental Test Center located at Ford’s John Andrews Product Development Center in Cologne, Germany, is capable of recreating just about any climate on Earth on demand. It can generate the blazing heat of a desert, the freezing cold of the Arctic, or the thick and humid air of a rainforest. The purpose is to ensure that every new global Ford product is capable of handling its burden no matter where it drives.
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“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.”
Three distinct wind tunnels make up the Environmental Test Center—the first recreates hot and cold weather with the intention of testing interior noises and the quickness with which the cabin can be cooled, the second tests for hot and cold weather with the purpose of testing visibility and engine effectiveness, and the third tests vehicles against high winds and altitudes.
“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,” said Michael Steup, project manager, Environmental Test Center, Ford of Europe.
Because these tunnels use 11 megawatts of electricity, it is powered using renewable energy from RheinEnergie.