New Ford ‘Weather Factory’ simulates any weather, anytime

Ford has opened a new state-of-the-art Environmental Test Centre that will allow its engineers to test vehicles in the most demanding conditions and make whatever weather they want at any time of the day.

Altitudes higher than Mont Blanc, the tallest Alpine peak, vehicle and wind speeds of up to 250 km/h (155 mph), snow, glaring sunlight and rain are among conditions that are a push of a button away the automotive environmental test centre.

The subject of a €70 million ($AU110 million) investment, the test centre offers the first automotive wind tunnel that can simulate 5,200 metres, the same elevation as the Mount Everest North Base Camp, and the first with such a range of conditions that can be simulated under one roof. The facility can also cool two rooms to – 40 C and heat them up to 55 C, as well as generate 95 per cent 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.

“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.”

Now fully operational, engineers can work on up to ten different vehicles simultaneously.

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.

Overall, the facility requires 11 megawatts of electricity, enough to power a small town of 2,400 inhabitants, that Ford says 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.

The test centre complements testing facilities that include Ford Lommel Proving Ground, in Belgium, home to a specific pothole-testing track, side-wind tests, and saltwater and mud baths.”

14 Jun 2018