Wind speeds of up to 155 mph (250 kph) can be replicated.
Volkswagen has announced plans to renew its entire lineup by the end of the decade and says that it’s simultaneously working on more than 50 new cars. To speed up development, the company has invested approximately €100 million ($115M) in a new Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center based at home in Wolfsburg, Germany.
Featuring a floor area of 8,800 square meters (94,722 square feet), the new facility will allow VW to determine the aerodynamic drag value of a car in only 20 minutes whereas using computer calculation it would take a few days. Inside the tunnel, wind speeds of up to 155 mph (250 kph) can be replicated in order to simulate the harshest traffic conditions of the real world and VW can dial the temperature between -30°C and +60°C (-22°F and +140°F).
Not only that, but the Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center has been developed to simulate snow, rain, and also to alter the humidity level that can reach up to 90 percent. VW is proud to say it has possibly one of the quietest wind tunnels in the business as at 100 mph (160 kph), the tunnel generates a sound pressure of 65 decibels, which is roughly the same as a TV set at a reasonable volume. It’s quite impressive when you take into account that huge fan has a diameter of eight meters (26.2 feet).
In the works since June 2014, this new center will allow VW to develop sleeker cars that will have more aerodynamic bodies with lower drag coefficients, which in turn will have a positive impact on fuel consumption and consequently on emissions. Needless to say, EVs will also take advantage of the wind tunnel as the body’s aero tweaks will boost range.
Gallery: VW new wind tunnel
Heat, cold and wind speeds up to 250 km/h: Volkswagen inaugurates new Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center
- Vehicle tests carried out under real-world climate conditions, realistically simulating actual driving
- Lower drag reduces fuel consumption and emissions
- Brand CEO Diess: optimum test conditions for the product and model offensive
In the course of its largest model and technology offensive to date, the Volkswagen brand today opened a new Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center in Wolfsburg, which is one of the most modern and efficient in the industry. The center, with a floor area of 8,800 m², is also certified for measurements in accordance with WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedures). Vehicles can be tested at wind speeds of up to 250 km/h, simulating real traffic conditions with a view to reducing drag, fuel consumption and emissions. In addition, driving simulations under all the climatic and environmental conditions normally experienced throughout the world can be conducted – at temperatures between -30°C and +60°C.
Dr. Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen brand, emphasizes: "By 2020, we will renew our entire product portfolio as well as expanding it in key segments. All in all, our development teams are working on more than 50 vehicle projects." The Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center offers optimum conditions for further improving the consumption figures of the growing model range, among other items.
Works Council Gerardo Scarpino says: "Technical Development at Wolfsburg is the heart of Volkswagen. More than 10,000 colleagues are working on the technology of the future here. With the new Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center, we will be safeguarding the future of many jobs in Wolfsburg. In order to use the new technology efficiently, we need highly qualified, experienced employees. We have precisely these colleagues here at Volkswagen."
As regards aerodynamic testing, Board Member for Technical Development Dr. Frank Welsch emphasizes: "These tests are a key factor in improving efficiency and reducing emissions. Thanks to the new center, we are also outstandingly well positioned for the future with respect to other development areas such as aeroacoustics and electric vehicle range."
In the aerodynamics and acoustics wind tunnel, especially the flat belt balance ensures that real-world driving operation can be simulated. Each individual wheel of the vehicle is positioned on its own flat belt. This allows turning motions of the wheels in a way, which is similar to driving on the road. The balance, with integrated camera system, aligns each model tested fully automatically in less than five minutes. The previous system required about 30 minutes. And the acoustic insulation of the tunnel makes it one of the quietest automotive wind tunnels in the world. At a wind speed of 160 km/h, the tunnel only reaches a sound pressure level of 65 decibels, comparable with TV operated at a reasonable volume or normal speech.
The thermal wind tunnel, which will be able to simulate snow in addition to rain and sunlight following a pilot phase, will allow significantly more real-life tests than its predecessor. The main component of the tunnel is a highly advanced all-wheel-drive roller dynamometer, which also meets all the requirements for road tests.
With the new center, the Volkswagen brand will significantly reduce the cost of tests previously carried out in remote areas. In addition, cooperation between development areas such as vehicle safety, design, acoustics and comfort will be facilitated as a result of the shorter distances involved; this also applies to the central workshop area. The foundation stone for the center was laid in June 2014. Wind tunnels are still essential for homologation and a wide variety of detailed improvements to vehicles. For example, an aerodynamic drag value can be determined in about 20 minutes. A computer calculation would take days.