Career Magazine

A hurricane at the push of a button

Career Magazine

A hurricane at the push of a button

March 1, 2020

The Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center in Wolfsburg

The objective was clear: wind tunnel tests were to further reduce the fuel consumption and  CO2 emission figures of all models. This is why the Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center is a research center of superlatives. It forms part of the overall infrastructure project for Volkswagen's main plant in Wolfsburg.

3 min read

10 cool facts

The area of 1,000 Volkswagen Passat Cars

With an area of 8,800 square meters, the new Wind Tunnel Efficiency Center takes up about as much space as around 1,000 parked Volkswagen Passats.

Complex construction work

10,000 m³ of concrete were poured into the foundations, walls and ceilings of the building, corresponding to the volume of four Olympic swimming pools. The total amount of steel used in the building, 1,500 metric tons, corresponds to the weight of about 680 Touaregs.

Long lines

For the overall infrastructure project, 3,400 meters of piping and almost 43 kilometers of electrical and data cables were laid. That corresponds roughly to the distance between Wolfsburg and Wolfenbüttel.

As powerful as a hurricane

Considered precisely, the possible wind speeds are significantly higher than hurricane force. "Hurricane force" corresponds to a wind speed of 118 kilometers per hour or more. The new fans are twice as strong and can generate wind speeds of up to 250 km/h.

Tropical heat or Siberian cold

The thermal wind tunnel can simulate any conceivable weather conditions which could be encountered throughout the world: sun, rain, snow and temperatures from minus 30 to plus 60 degrees Celsius. Even a rain forest climate with a humidity of 95  percent can be created.

Mega performance

Vehicles with a power output of up to 1,000 kW/1,360 PS can be tested on the roller dynamometer. Individual functions such as air conditioning or brake cooling can be tested to their limits here. The wind in the two tunnels is generated by fans. The fan of the thermal wind tunnel has a diameter of 4.5 meters and a rating of 2.1 megawatts. That corresponds to 35,000 light bulbs with 60 watts each. The aerodynamic/aeroacoustic wind tunnel has a fan with a diameter of eight meters and 3.1 megawatts.

Vehicle movements as on the road

Thanks to highly advanced measurement systems, vehicle movements similar to those experienced in road traffic can be simulated. For example, a flat belt balance allows precise results even with rotating wheels. After all, the rapid rotation of the wheels influences the aerodynamic drag.

A whispering storm

The aerodynamic/aeroacoustic wind tunnel is one of the world's quietest automotive wind tunnels in its performance class. For example, it allows precise measurements in vehicle interiors. At wind speeds of 160 km/h, the noise is very little louder than in a normal office.

Precision despite a headwind

A high-tech cross arm made from glass-fiber-reinforced plastic with a spider-like configuration ensures precise results in the midst of the artificial storm. This cross arm guides sensors precisely to the right point on the vehicle. Even at full wind speed, the sensors are positioned to within tenths of a millimeter.

Think Blue. Engineering

The new building is an architectural symbol of the high environmental standards set by Volkswagen. Of course, the Wind Tunnel Center is integrated in the "Think Blue. Engineering" program. The building meets the latest energy efficiency standards. For example, ambient-temperature cooling is used in many tests.

In addition, the distances within the team have been reduced. Offices, meeting rooms and laboratories are installed in a compact configuration in a single building, saving time and energy.

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