Ford has opened its new Weather Factory, designed to make it easier to torture its cars in extreme weather conditions without ever leaving the factory. The new facility, which cost more than R1 billion to develop, and each weather testing centre takes up around a ‘soccer field’ of space. It’ll be used to test everything from the tiny Figo to the not-so-tiny Transit.
Up to 10 cars can be tested at once, and there are three wind tunnels to see how fast the cabin can be cooled, how fast the car starts, how much wind noise sneaks past the seals at certain speeds, and how the wipers hold up when they’re covered in ice. They’re specific circumstances, but crucial for customers living in remote locales.
It’s capable of creating -40°C or +55°C weather, generate 95 per cent humidity or simulate altitudes of 5200m. That means snow, by the way, and lots of it. It’ll also simulate winds up to 250km/h or serious sun glare, the latter of which is crucial for designing interiors that don’t blind their drivers in summer. Making all of this happen takes 11 megawatts of electricity, enough to power a town of 2400 people. It’s all renewably sourced, according to Ford.