Volvo's new high-tech wind tunnel

Volvo's new high-tech wind tunnel
Volvo aerodynamic expert Tim Walker in the new tunnel
Volvo aerodynamic expert Tim Walker in the new tunnel
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The Volvo C30 in testing
The Volvo C30 in testing
Volvo aerodynamic expert Tim Walker in the new tunnel
Volvo aerodynamic expert Tim Walker in the new tunnel

October 1, 2008 Volvo has invested 20 million Euro in complete refurbishment of its in-house wind-tunnel, making it the first car manufacturer to own a facility which combines a moving road simulation system with the ability to fully reproduce the airflow around and underneath the car's body... and it's already delivering results in the quest for greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

First built in 1986, the reincarnated 27 square meter facility is fitted with an 8.15-metre, carbon-fiber blade fan and a 5.3m x 1m steel belt that simulates the road under the moving car. This combination enables full-simulation of a car moving at speeds of up 155kph. Volvo sees these features as critical to understanding aerodynamic forces in real life driving conditions because the underside and wheels account for more than 50 percent of a car's total air drag - a factor not captured by traditional wind tunnels where the vehicle stands still.

"It's a bit like measuring the aerodynamic properties of a car that is standing still in a car park during a powerful storm. Our new wind tunnel, on the other hand, has been designed to exactly replicate the flow of air around and underneath the car when driving on a real road at speeds of up to 155kph. Our wind tunnel uses sophisticated techniques at the forefront of aerodynamic technology," said Tim Walker, aerodynamics expert at Volvo Cars.

"We have succeeded in reducing air resistance in the new Volvo C30 DRIVe by more than 10 percent," explains Tim Walker. "This in turn leads to around 3 grams lower CO2 emissions per kilometer."

This translates to a reduction in fuel consumption of just over 0.1 litre per 100 kilometres according to the official EU Combined Cycle. This figure that can be more than twice as high in real driving situations according to Volvo, so a driver covering 15,000 kilometres per year will save about 45 litres of fuel.

Volvo hopes to emulate the positive results across the whole model range.

The new wind tunnel in brief:

  • Fan power: 5 MW (6 800hp)
  • Fan size (diameter): 8.15m
  • Fan type: Carbon fibre, 9 blades
  • Wind speed: 155km/h
  • Wind Speed Accuracy: +/-0.05m/s
  • Moving ground: 2-72.22m/s (260km/h)
  • Test Section Size Length: 15.8m, width 6.6m, height 4.1m
  • Turntable (diameter): 6.6m
  • Test yaw angle: +/- 30 degrees
  • Max load on balance: 3,000kg
  • Max load per wheel: 1,000kg
  • Balance sensitivity: +/- 30gram
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