Why Ford Is Spending $200 Million on a Wind Tunnel

February 15, 2017, 7:24 AM UTC

Ford Motor (F) will start construction this year on a $200 million vehicle testing center for production and racing vehicles that will include a wind tunnel complex aimed at improving its cars’ fuel efficiencies.

The new complex is a sign of how tightening emissions regulations and an increase in consumer demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles can dictate where automakers are investing their capital. The announcement follows lobbying by 18 major automakers, including Ford, to encourage President Donald Trump to ease vehicle fuel efficiency rules.

The wind tunnel complex will be built on 13 acres next to Ford’s Driveability Test Facility in Allen Park, Mich., and will house simulation equipment, such as a five-belt conveyor system that can replicate real-world drag.

The conveyor network is designed so each wheel of the vehicle gets its own belt, and the fifth belt under the center of the vehicle will allow airflow around the entire vehicle at speeds up to 155 miles per hour, according to Ford. The system can be switched to a single belt that operates at speeds of up to 200 mph for Ford’s high-speed performance and racing vehicles.

The new facility will also include a climatic chamber that can get as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

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