Weather for every occasion

Ford’s new ‘Weather Factory’ enables engineers to test forthcoming vehicles in the most demanding conditions from around the world.

Altitudes higher than Mont Blanc, the tallest Alpine peak, vehicle and wind speed of up to 155mph, snow, glaring sunlight and rain are among conditions that will be simulated at Ford’s state-of-the-art Environmental Test Centre.

As well as turning low-lying Cologne, in Germany, into the highest point in Western Europe at the touch 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 degrees centigrade, the average winter temperature in eastern Siberia, to +55 degrees centigrade – just 1.7 degrees below the highest-ever air temperature globally recorded – as well as 95% humidity.

In the UK, Ford Dunton’s Environmental Test Laboratory has been capable of simulating altitudes up to 3,660m since 1999 – as well as temperatures from -40 to +55 degrees centigrade.

‘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.