How would you like to be able to choose the weather any day of the year? That is exactly what Ford’s new ‘Weather Factory’ will enable engineers in Merkenich to do
Currently under construction, this new state of the art Environmental Test Centre (ETC) can recreate altitudes higher than the tallest peak in the Alps – Mont Blanc – and generate vehicle and wind speeds of up to 250 km/h (155 mph).
From snow, to glaring sunlight, to heavy rain, the new ETC will be able to simulate virtually any atmospheric condition. As well as making low-lying Cologne, in Germany, the highest point in Western Europe at the push of a button, the multi-million euro facility will be the most advanced automotive facility of its kind.
The first to simulate altitudes of 5,200 metres, the centre will also offer extremes of -40°C, the average winter temperature in
eastern Siberia, to +55° C – just 1.7° Celsius below the highest-ever air temperature globally recorded – as well as 95 per cent humidity.
“With industry-first features, like the high altitude testing and the ability to simulate heavy snow, this new test facility offers a toolkit that will help us to continue to develop future best-in-class vehicles,” said Joe Bakaj, vice president, Product Development, Ford of Europe. “This is a significant step forward that will enable Ford to efficiently simulate the most demanding environmental conditions around the globe under repeatable conditions.”
The centre – which Ford expects to be fully operational later next year – will enable engineers to work on up to nine different vehicles simultaneously, testing comfort, safety and operational capabilities including electrical performance, braking, air conditioning, and pulling heavy loads.
The football pitch sized facility will cover an area of 5,500 square metres, include two climate wind tunnels; a high-altitude lab; and four temperature controlled test chambers, three of which will also facilitate humidity testing. It will also facilitate testing of Ford’s expanded line up of performance cars and sports cars, which includes the acclaimed Focus RS, Focus ST, and Ford Mustang, in conditions of higher wind speed. And it will be used to test all front-wheel, rear wheel, and all-wheel drive vehicles.