GM High-Tech Performance Blogs
Another awesome stop during my trip to the 2014 NAIAS – GM invited us to tour its Climatic Wind Tunnel
First off, note that the Climatic Wind Tunnel is much different than the regular wind tunnel you may have previously seen. It is not used for aerodynamic testing. Its primary purpose is to torture cars through extreme weather conditions, without having to ship cars all over the world, for the purpose of ensuring the powertrain cooling is sufficient and that all of the seals (weatherstripping) hold up. Natural weather is replicated so well by this facility that you can actually get a tan under the lights. It can simulate rain and snow, and they even have a special soak room to push the seals to their limit. And every production vehicle comes through at least twice for testing.
The heart of the operation is two giant fans with filters and spray bars (to provide the precipitation). However, inside the testing chamber there is a four-wheel dyno with an adjustable wheelbase and load control. Occasionally this dyno is used for powertrain calibration, though that division has its own facility. There are sensors everywhere, not only for testing purposes, but safety as well. If there was an electrical or gasoline fire, a tremendous fire suppression system would make short work of it. This facility runs 20 hours a day, and costs $10,000 to run a test. However, it is still cheaper than sending cars all over the world. And, as you can imagine, race teams do occasionally test here.
First stop, was a short presentation with background info and specs. The facility was actually built in the 1950s, and it is made out of thick enough concrete to survive a nuclear holocaust.
This is the newest testing chamber where a prototype 2015 Colorado had been strapped down. Notice the old camo.
Here you can see a little more of the chamber, sensors, and dyno.
These sensors look for flashes and are connected to the fire suppression system.
I think this is the flux capacitor.
This is the giant duct for the wind. As the wheels reach 100mph on dyno, the wind corresponds to replicate accurate wind speed.
Powertrain cooling testing lab – this is where the radiators and A/C systems are tested.
The shop area is where the vehicles are outfitted with the testing equipment. A few were noticeably covered up.
This wind tunnel chamber dates back to the 1950s. Imagine the cars that came through here!
Since this chamber was not running today we were able to walk through the fans and ducts.
The long metal pillers are precipitation sprayers similar to what you'd see at a ski resort. Behind that is a giant filter.