EThe air shines like in the desert, while a few meters away it is so cold that you can make a snowman. And there's a Category 5 hurricane in the next room. Welcome to the Ford Weather Factory!
The new Environmental Testing Center The oval brand's latest generation puts all the world's weather conditions under one roof, allowing engineers to test new models, from a small Ford KA + to a two-ton Ford Transit, in the most demanding conditions and achieve the conditions. weather conditions they want at any time of the day.
Altitudes higher than Mont Blanc, the highest alpine peak, vehicle and wind speeds of up to 250 km / h, snow, strong sunlight and rain are some of the conditions that can be generated by pressing just a button on the Europe's most advanced automotive environmental test center.
In an area the size of a football field, engineers can put vehicles on demanding “trips” around the world, from the heat of the Sahara desert, to the arctic cold of Siberia or the heavy humidity of Costa Rica.
"The wide range of simulation tests will allow Ford drivers to have the confidence that their vehicles can handle any climate zone", account Joe bakaj, VP Ford of Europe Product Development. "Traveling to the four corners of this building is like taking a trip to the four corners of the world, and our engineers will continue to do so 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to continue developing the best vehicles of the future."
With an investment of 70 millones de euros, the test center has the first automotive wind tunnel that can simulate an altitude of 5.200 meters, the same elevation as Mount Everest North Base Camp, and is the first to allow such a wide variety of weather conditions to be recreated under one roof.
The Ford Weather Factory enables drivers to rely on vehicles that have endured weather conditions such as those in the Sahara, Siberia and the highest peaks of the Alps.
The facilities can also cool two rooms to -40ºC and heat them up to 55ºC, in addition to generating 95 percent humidity. Extreme temperatures make Ford's John Andrews Product Development Center facility in Cologne, Germany the hottest, coldest and wettest place in Europe and home to the highest point in Western Europe.
Now that it is fully operational, engineers can work on up to ten different vehicles simultaneously. The tests cover comfort, safety and durability, as well as electrical performance, brakes, air conditioning, towing, cab heating and traffic jam situations. Engineers analyze the effects of high-speed winds on the exterior parts, check their behavior in the face of rain and snow, and see how quickly a windshield defrosts at different temperatures.
"The Environmental Test Center represents a significant investment for Ford of Europe that will help the company develop vehicles for global markets." Bakaj assured.
All Ford vehicles will be tested at this facility, which features three climatic wind tunnels, including a high-altitude laboratory, and four temperature-controlled test chambers, one of which will also facilitate humidity testing.
El wind tunnel 1 It is prepared for hot and cold immersion tests. The 28 spotlights with 4.000-watt bulbs help simulate the powerful rays of the sun, allowing engineers to see how quickly the cab can be cooled. This wind tunnel can also evaluate the interior noise of the vehicle systems at different speeds, temperatures and humidity levels, to check the noise of the heating and air conditioning.
El wind tunnel 2 it is also prepared for hot and cold immersion tests. Engineers can use this wind tunnel to create snow and rain to check its effect on visibility, engine starting and the time it takes to warm up the cabin.
Ford invested more than 70 million euros in these facilities in Germany. Described as "an engineer's dream", this center is both the hottest and coldest point in Europe and the highest point in Western Europe.
El wind tunnel 3 It is the altitude laboratory, where engineers can test vehicles with winds of up to 120 km / h and an altitude of up to 5.200 meters. Cold start and altitude durability tests ensure vehicle fluids do not explode when operated under higher pressure. More than half of Ford vehicles worldwide are sold in areas with roads above 1.000 meters.
“We can see how the windshield wipers work in arctic temperatures, how engine performance changes in extreme hot and cold conditions, and even how much snow falls on the driver's head when he opens the door. It is an engineer's dream ", account Michael steup, Project Manager, Ford of Europe Environmental Testing Center.
In total, the installation requires 11 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply a small town of 2.400 inhabitants, which comes from a totally renewable and environmentally friendly source. The electricity supplied by RheinEnergie comes from certified sustainable sources in Scandinavia and covers the entire energy needs of Ford facilities in the area.