Ford turns shipping containers into a mobile wind tunnel for vehicle testing

Ford mobile wind tunnel
Wind tunnels are crucial to understanding the intricate details of aerodynamics. Airflow affects everything from fuel economy to cabin noise, and wind tunnels let engineers analyze it in detail. Yet while they’re incredibly useful, wind tunnels are also big and expensive.

Ford is changing that, though. The carmaker figured out how to build a mobile wind tunnel out of shipping containers that can operate at a fraction of the cost of a conventional setup. It was built specifically to test for unwanted wind noise in early-production vehicles. The cars are pulled off the assembly line and tested onsite, which Ford hopes will shorten the amount of time needed to identify problems and implement fixes.

Compared to Ford’s main wind tunnel in Allen Park, Michigan, which is the size of an office building and cost $50 million to build, the mobile wind tunnel is a bit more primitive. It consists of two 53-foot-long shipping containers that can be trucked wherever they’re needed. Two six-foot-diameter fans powered by 250-horsepower electric motors can generate winds of up to 80 mph.

Read more: How Ford plans to take its Michigan headquarters into the future

The two containers are fastened together side by side on a flat section of pavement. A third, 40-foot container serves as an officer and control booth. Despite using 100-foot power-distribution cables that weigh 1,080 pounds each (including 40-pound plugs), Ford says the entire assembly can be broken down within a day, and reassembled at a new site “within hours.”

In-car sensors, like a noise-detecting dummy called an “Aachen head,” are used to check newly-assembled vehicles for issues. Doing that work at a factory eliminates the need to ship cars across the country to traditional facilities, and allows for quicker fixes since all of the relevant people are in one place, Ford says. The mobile wind tunnel also frees up Ford’s Allen Park tunnel for more in-depth work, like new-vehicle development.

The mobile wind tunnel will be put into operation at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan, which builds the Mustang and Fusion. Ford has other mobile test facilities as well, including three environmental evaluation chambers.

Cars

We get up close with the Vision iNext concept to learn about BMW’s future

Through a massive worldwide campaign that visits various major cities around the world, we get our exclusive opportunity to get up close and personal with BMW’s latest Vision iNEXT Concept to learn about automaker’s future plans.
Emerging Tech

Giant wind farm in Morocco will help mine cryptocurrency, conserve energy

One of the windiest parts of Morocco is set to get a $2 billion wind farm power plant, which could help power eco-friendly cryptocurrency mining in a more environmentally friendly way.
Cars

An elevator in your garage? Boring Company gets OK to test Loop Lift from tunnel

The Hawthorne (California) City Council gave Elon Musk's Boring Company the go-ahead to construct a Loop Lift prototype. The lift will connect the company's existing underground hyperloop to a residential garage.
Product Review

It looks like a concept, but the Lexus LC500 is very much a real-life stunner

The LC500 sports car combines exotic looks, a raucous V8 engine, sumptuous interior, and responsive steering to make one of the most compelling Lexus-badged models ever and one of the sexiest vehicles on sale.
Product Review

Mercedes’ 2019 Sprinter proves vans don’t have to be low-tech

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter boasts infotainment and driver-assist tech from Mercedes’ passenger cars. It’s not something normally seen on big vans, but it makes the Sprinter a much easier vehicle to use.
Cars

Startup inks ‘world’s largest deal’ for driverless grocery deliveries

An increasing number of companies are testing delivery services using autonomous vehicles. Startup Udelv already has experience of running a trial in San Francisco, with Oklahoma City, Oklahoma set to become its next destination.
Product Review

Alfa Romeo delivers the quintessential Italian high-performance SUV

Alfa’s Romeo’s Ferrari-powered sport utility delivers hair-raising straight-line performance, admirable capability in the corners, and head-turning style, but comes up a bit short in a few key areas.
Smart Home

Amazon reportedly will introduce an Alexa-enabled microwave, amp, and more

Amazon's Fall 2018 Alexa device rollout is about to begin, sources say. Look for an Alexa microwave, an amplifier, receiver, and subwoofer, and an Alexa voice-responsive device for your car. Amazon is maximizing its voice-command presence.
Cars

Elon Musk: Tesla is bringing most collision repair in-house, outsiders too slow

Dissatisfied with third-party collision repair shops, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to announce the firm is bring most repair work in-house. The goal is a car as good or better than new with repair completed in under an hour.
Cars

Audi is finally taking the wraps off its Tesla-fighting e-tron electric SUV

The 2019 Audi e-tron is an electric SUV aimed at the Tesla Model X, Jaguar I-Pace, and Mercedes-Benz EQC. It's Audi's first mass-market electric car, but will it make a good first impression?
Cars

Volkswagen built a 210-mph Jetta, and broke a land-speed record with it

A modified 2019 Volkswagen Jetta just set a land-speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the G/BGC class. Boasting a 600-horsepower engine, the Jetta hit 210 mph on the salt.
Emerging Tech

Smart sound system will give every car passenger their own wireless audio stream

Can't agree on what to listen to in the car? Imagine if each passenger could get their own way, courtesy of a personal audio stream — no headphones required. Sounds impossible, but it's almost here.
Emerging Tech

No more scraping? Anti-frosting advance could mark end of frozen windshields

Hate frozen windshields in winter? Researchers at Virginia Tech may have found a way to banish them for good, thanks to the world’s first passive anti-frosting surface. Here's how it works.
Cars

Ferrari’s latest special editions are stripped down, old-school sports cars

The Ferrari Monza SP1 and SP2 are inspired by some of the Italian automaker's most legendary sports cars. They mix old school rawness with modern carbon fiber construction and 789-horsepower V12 power.