Ford Invests USD$200M in Wind Tunnel Complex

Aerodynamic testing complex to house next-gen rolling road wind tunnel and climatic chamber.

Consumers’ appetite for vehicles with greater fuel efficiency and performance has led Ford to invest in a new aerodynamic testing complex that will house a next-generation rolling road wind tunnel and state-of-the-art climatic chamber.

The new facility will come complete with testing advancements that better match the technological development of Ford products – both production vehicles and racing vehicles.

Dennis Paige, lab manager for Ford’s Driveability Testing Facilities, points out that advanced features, development and innovation require that testing and verification technology keep pace with the evolution of the automobile and the industry as a whole. That’s where the new facility comes into play.

Ford’s new wind tunnel complex better positions its engineers to conduct testing that proves out advancements in vehicle design. A new five-belt conveyor system can replicate real-world drag through a rolling road aerodynamic tunnel that enables Ford to bring the road to the vehicle.

To test for optimal fuel efficiency, each wheel gets its own belt.

The massive fifth belt runs under the center of the vehicle, allowing airflow around the entire vehicle at speeds up to 155 m/h (249 km/h). As a part of the rolling road belt cartridge system, a crane will be used to switch between the five belt and single belt systems – an industrial-sized plug-and-play approach bringing two testing methods into one. The single belt – which operates at up to 200 m/h (321 km/h) – opens up a new breed of testing for high-speed performance and racing vehicles.

Together with the rolling road, the wind tunnel complex will produce full environmental airflow simulation. This expanded air-flow will enable engineers to validate vehicle designs at a higher quality and repeatability. This strengthens testing for aerodynamic shielding, high-speed performance and other design features.

Aerodynamic testing of a Ford F-150 at one of the company’s current wind tunnel facilities. (Image courtesy Ford Motor Company.)

Aerodynamic testing of a Ford F-150 at one of the company’s current wind tunnel facilities. (Image courtesy Ford Motor Company.)

The climatic chamber can get as low as -40° F (-40° C) and as high as 140° F (60° C).

To accommodate large-frame vehicles, including Super Duty trucks, the new aerodynamic complex will “super-size” wind tunnel chambers.

“This new wind tunnel facility will not only allow us to test our performance and racing vehicle line-up, but will also enable us to share innovations across all our global Ford products,” said Dave Pericak, Ford Performance global director.

The new wind tunnel complex will sit on 13 acres next to Ford’s current Driveability Test Facility in Dearborn, Michigan. The complex will house new innovative technology that delivers state-of-the-art real-world driving simulations to advance improvements in fuel economy.

Construction starts this year.

For more information, visit the Ford website.