‘Weather Factory’ from Ford could simulate any weather for vehicle testing

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 18 May 2018


The test facility simulating heavy snow falls

Ford Motors has started the operations of a new football pitch-sized facility in Germany to enable the engineers to test the vehicles in some of the harshest conditions in the world. Ford has stated that more than 70 million Euros (Rs 562 crore) have been invested into the facility.

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. Joe Bakaj, vice president, Product Development, Ford of Europe said, “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.”

“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 Centre, Ford of Europe.

Testing at the most extreme place in Europe

The test centre offers the first automotive wind tunnel to simulate heavy snow and altitudes of 5,200 metres, the same elevation as the Mount Everest North Base Camp. The facility can also cool two rooms to –40 degree Celsius and heat them up to 55 degree Celsius, as well as generate 95 percent 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.

Ford claims that the 11 megawatts of electricity for the facility are sourced from fully renewable, environmentally-friendly power generators. The test centre complements testing facilities that include Ford Lommel Proving Ground, in Belgium, which is home to a specific pothole-testing track, side-wind tests, and saltwater and mud baths. 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.

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