Engineers in Honda’s research and development department have a powerful new tool at their disposal. The Japanese company invested $124 million to develop and build a surprisingly advanced wind tunnel that can be used to test a Civic, a race car and anything in between.
The main and most widely-known function of a wind tunnel is fine-tuning a vehicle’s aerodynamic profile, but Honda notes that it will also use the facility to test wind noise in a controlled environment. And, it plans to develop some of its future race cars in it. Building a wind tunnel that lets engineers carry out these three tasks required the use of seriously impressive hardware that explains the project’s nine-digit price tag.
Located in Ohio’s Transportation Research Center, the wind tunnel features a five-belt rolling system for developing production vehicles and a second wide-belt system that can be used to design high-performance sports cars and purpose-built race cars. It’s configured to blow wind at up to 193 mph (which, in meteorology, would be considered a category five hurricane) thanks in part to a 26-foot fan fitted with 12 carbon fiber blades and powered by an electric motor rated at 6,700 horsepower; that’s the power of nearly 22 Civic Type R four-cylinder engines.
It’s a system that’s a lot more complex and far bigger than it might sound. Honda explains that switching from the five-belt system (which consists of a belt under each wheel and a bigger one under the middle of the car) to the one-belt configuration (which places one big belt under the entire car) takes approximately four hours. Each belt module weighs approximately 40 tons, according to the firm.