Behind the Scenes of Ford’s New Environmental Test Centre

In a space the size of two soccer fields, Ford’s new Environmental Test Centre creates temperatures from the ones similar to winter in eastern Siberia to the Sahara Desert, and elevation higher than the highest Alpine peak.

Verge visited the ETC, which is located in Cologne, Germany, last week, and we got to experience the four different climates that are contained within the facility: tropical, desert, altitude and artic. The different climates allow engineers to test new vehicles in a variety of severe weather conditions at any time. The ETC is “the most advanced in the global auto industry,” with three climatic wind tunnels: 1 high altitude lab, one specially sound-dampened tunnel for acoustic tests, and one specially equipped for rain and snow tests, and the four temperature-controlled test chambers.

One word comes to mind to describe the “tropical zone”: sweaty. In this lab, engineers are able to change the humidity from 10 to 95% and make it rain heavily, and Ford vehicles go through humidity testing in both cold and hot environments.

The “extreme desert conditions” chamber is made to test air conditioning systems, engine performance under high heat and wind, and engine cooling systems. It can create speeds as fast as 250km/h, extremely powerful sun beams, and temperatures up to 55 degrees Celsius.

The altitude lab tests engine performance and durability in extreme altitude conditions. It can take vehicles as high as 5200m above sea level and -100m below sea level, and create wind speeds up to 120 km/h.

The fourth lab creates a “deep freeze” climate, with temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius, to test heating systems, windscreen defrosting and air intake systems. It has a “soak room” that can completely cover a car in snow, and see how snow gathers on a car’s roof.