Later this year, Ford will begin construction of a brand-new vehicle aerodynamics research center in Southeastern Michigan.
Located on 13 acres of land next to the company’s current Drivability Test Facility in Allen Park, this structure will also be close to its Flat Rock assembly plant, which is where the Mustang and Lincoln Continental are built.
Aimed at improving vehicle efficiency and performance, this laboratory will feature some groundbreaking capabilities. One of the most significant things it will offer engineers is a rolling-road aerodynamic tunnel that will help them simulate real-world driving conditions far more accurately. This will include a five-belt conveyor system.
Each wheel can be spun on what is essentially its own treadmill. Additionally, a separate belt can be run beneath the center of a vehicle, allowing product-development experts to more precisely simulate what happens while a car or truck is in motion. These conveyors are capable of spinning at up to 155 miles an hour (250 km/h).
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But to evaluate Ford’s truly high-performance offerings, this aerodynamics facility will also have a single-belt system that’s capable of going 200 mph (322 km/h). Keeping things simple, a crane can be used to reconfigure the belts that are being used. For full-line testing, larger chambers will be able to accommodate upsized vehicles, like the Super Duty truck range.
In addition to rolling roadways, this facility will also be able to simulate temperature extremes. An advanced climate chamber should allow technicians to chill a vehicle down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Trouncing the hottest deserts on earth, it can also cook them at up to 140 degrees.
According to Ford, real-world driving simulations will help them boost vehicle fuel economy and performance in the coming years. As cars and trucks become more advanced, validation technology needs to keep pace. This facility should give the folks in Dearborn a technical advantage over rival automakers. Construction is expected to be completed close to the end of 2019.
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