Wind tunnel testing on cars is nothing new, being a large part in developing the aerodynamics of cars for decades and, though we talk about a car’s slipperiness all the time, we rarely stop to ask just what it takes to test these things out. On its official blog, Lexus takes us on a tour of its aerodynamics laboratory at the research and development headquarters in Japan’s Aichi Prefecture, that is as amazing as it is bizarre.
The facility is fairly new, opening up just two years ago. In it’s 22-meter wide, 260 meter long looping test tunnel is a wind turbine capable of generating hurricane-level wind speeds of up to 155 mph. At one section of a tunnel, the air is redirected to a testing room by a set of precisely angled metal slats.
“We had the structural details fine-tuned, so the layout of the walls, the selection of materials, and location of vents and nozzles, all help make this lab one of the most reliable research facilities in the world,” said Toshiyuki Murayama, group manager of thermal management and aerodynamics at Lexus.
Air is directed through the slats to a testing room, where engineers evaluate the flow of air around a vehicle, visualizing it clearly with streams of smoke. The car is set on a turntable weighing scale, as the engineers monitor how the flow of air effects the weight distribution. The turnable also functions as a rolling road so they can simulate how air flows around the wheels while they’re at speed instead of just sitting statically.
Noise reduction tests are also being conducted as the Lexus engineers monitor the car from a safe observation chamber. If certain adjustments need to be made, they can tweak certain aspects on site or even temporarily affix stabilizer fins made quickly with a 3D printer.
“Every part of the car is designed within the margin of a millimetre,” explains Lexus RC F chief engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi. “We go through every possible layout of the ducts or the sizing of aerodynamic parts. All the details and conditions must be taken into consideration. It is no easy job.”
No, but it sure looks like a fascinating one.