Our spy photos love to catch test cars out in extreme weather testing, but they now will have fewer chances to snag a Mercedes-Benz. The automaker looks to reduce real-world testing with the opening of two new wind test tunnels at its Technology Center in Sindelfingen.
"Even in the arctic regions of Sweden, the temperatures in winter are not always as low as we would like them to be for our test drives. Likewise, nor can we always rely on getting the extreme high summer temperatures we need for testing, even in America's infamous Death Valley,” said Dr. Thomas Weber, a board member with the Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. “In our new climatic wind tunnels we can create whatever climate conditions we want at any time of year, whenever we need them. And we can do so with very tight tolerances, so the measurements can be reproduced at any time. That's just not possible out in the open air."
The first tunnel is dedicated to cold weather testing and can simulate heavy rain, snow storms and a temperature range of -40 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The second tunnel is used exclusively for extreme heat tests and has a temperature range of -10 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the hot tunnel can simulate hot road surfaces of up to 122 and 158 degrees, which provides simulated ambient summer heat engineers would experience out in real world testing in the desert.
Both tunnels share similar high-tech features including an air jet that can produce winds at a hurricane and blizzard-like 165 mph. They are also equipped with a fire extinguisher system that includes a number of fine-mist water nozzles that rise from the floor in case the test car can’t handle the extreme tests. The massive wheel rollers can simulate various driving and traffic situations such as long uphill and downhill stretches. Also, the rollers have the capacity to act as an electric generator that sends power back to the grid whenever the car’s tires are spinning under its own power.
While these two new tunnels boast impressive amounts of technology, they are not meant as complete substitutes for real world testing. “We therefore spare ourselves a lot of very time-consuming road tests early on, and yet our prototypes are still at a much further advanced stage of development,” said Ulrich Mellinghoff, Head of Mercedes Safety Development. “And that means that we can meet our very challenging objectives much sooner."