Ford recently opened Europe's most advanced automotive environmental test centre. Located in Germany, the facility can simulate the most extreme weather conditions from around the world. In one room the humidity and heat may be blasting, and in the next there could be a category five hurricane.
This place is bad arse.
Costing almost $108 million dollars, the test centre is located Cologne, Germany and has been described as an engineers dream.
It's also a beast that requires 11 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power a small town. Fortunately, the facility is powered by renewable energy from certified sustainable sources in Scandinavia.
The testing area is the size of a football pitch and it allows Ford engineers to test vehicles in the same extreme weather conditions that you would find across the world - from the scorching Sahara desert to the frozen tundra of Siberia.
Rooms can drop to as low as -40 degrees Celsius, heat to 55 degrees Celsius and generate 95 per cent humidity.
With the push of a button, the conditions inside the facility can replicate blizzards, rain, glaring heat and even 250 km/h wind speeds. It's awesome.
The centre also has the world's first automotive wind tunnel that can simulate 5,200 metres, which is the same elevation as the Mount Everest North Base Camp.
"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.
The engineers test a wide array of things, including safety and durability, electrical performance, braking, towing, cabin heating, comfort and traffic jam situations.
They also test how the different weather conditions effect the likes of the the windscreen and general exterior of the vehicles.
Some of the upcoming models that Ford are currently testing include the KA+ and the two-tonne Transit.
Ford have created some lovely infographics that detail the different extreme weather conditions and what parts of the car they're good for testing.
"The temperature in the Sahara Desert can get close to 50° Celsius. Cologne is now hotter than that, getting up to 55° Celsius, just 1.7° Celsius lower than the highest-ever air temperature globally recorded. All Ford vehicles are tested in this extreme heat.
Two wind tunnels in Ford’s Environmental Test Centre feature 28 spotlights with 4,000watt bulbs. They simulate the powerful sun beams needed for testing that involves timing how fast the cabin can be cooled. Engineers can also push a vehicle to its limits: to check how extreme heat effects engine performance and see if the engine overheats at any point."
"The average winter temperature in eastern Siberia is -40° Celsius. That’s how cold it is in Cologne all year round, and all Ford vehicles experience this deep freeze to check the vehicle’s durability and robustness in the harshest winter conditions.
In Arctic-like weather, engineers can see how fast a windscreen defrosts at different temperatures, check the effect of the cold on engine starts and see how long it takes to heat the cabin. Engineers can even make it snow from the ceiling, to check how the snow gathers on the vehicle’s roof and how much snow falls on the driver’s head when they open the door."
"The wind tunnels in the test centre can take the humidity from 10 per cent up to 95 per cent. Engineers can make it rain heavily to see how quickly windows fog up and check wiper systems and visibility."
"In the altitude lab, engineers can take a vehicle from 100 metres below sea level all the way up to 5,200 metres, and generate wind speeds of up to 120 km/h at that elevation. The high altitude cold start and durability tests ensure the vehicle’s liquids don’t burst their lines when working under higher pressure. Engineers can also combine altitude testing with hot and cold tests, cranking the temperature from -40° Celsius up to +55° Celsius."
You can see the facility in action in the video below. In the meantime, we can only hope we have the chance to visit some day!