BMW has opened in May a new 130€ million environmental test centre in Munich which it claims is one of the world’s most advanced.
Five test cells form a unique testing center: the new Energy and Environmental Test Centre (ETC) is composed of three thermal wind tunnels— the “climatic wind tunnel”, the “thermal wind tunnel“ and the “environmental wind tunnel” — and two test chambers — the “altitude test chamber” and the “cold test chamber”.
Of course, real-world testing is still a part of BMW’s development process, but the ability to recreate just about any climatic condition regardless of the weather outside speeds up the process.
Climatic wind tunnel
Inside the ETC BMW has three of the most advanced wind tunnels in the world. The three thermal wind tunnels are identical, but fulfill different requirements, which allows for maximum flexibility in the testing process. They all have a vertical or “standing” air duct; the fan is about 15 metres above the test section — the plenum.
Since the thermal wind tunnel is especially designed for tests of cooling performance and thermal management, the temperature range of this climatic wind tunnel is from 20 to 45 °C. The blower produces wind speeds of up to 280 km/h. In addition, it has an accessible centre pit with a glass floor, which allows thermographic tests of the underbody, among other things.
The environmental wind tunnel
The design and verification process in car development, however, not only applies to tests in the heat or cold. The objective of the tests is also to ensure operational reliability and road safety under all climatic conditions, even with rain, sun, wind and snow or combinations of these.
With the ETC environmental wind tunnel, the BMW Group now has the opportunity to be able to test all environmental factors individually or together in an insulated test facility. In addition to the sun simulation, the environmental wind tunnel thus also has systems for simulating precipitation. More specifically, this means that the test facility technicians can create rain and snow – in varying intensities and with different kinds of snow.
Overall, a temperature range of minus 20 to plus 55 °C can be simulated in the environmental wind tunnel.
The altitude test chamber
The altitude test chamber is the “high point” of the ETC: This test cell allows the simulation of test drives at an altitude of up to 4,200 meters above sea level, which corresponds to 620 millibars of air pressure. In other words, the altitude test chamber is a big compression chamber with pre-installed technology for fuel-consumption measurement. This makes important tests possible on emissions behaviour at high altitudes or in the cold, on engine application and the fuel supply system.
Within the altitude test facility it can be summer or winter, since it has a temperature range of minus 30 to plus 45 °C and a solarium. Despite limited space, the chamber test facility was able to be created with the properties of a small wind tunnel.