GM’s New Wind Tunnel Blasts Baby Cars With 155 MPH Gales
All right petrolheads. Get ready for the cutest car news you’ll read all day: GM has unveiled a brand new aerodynamics testing facility, one designed to blast tiny models of cars with winds up to 155 mph. Just look at them!
The $30 million, 35,000-square-foot space is plainly called the Reduced Scale Wind Tunnel and it sits right next door to the 35-year-old full size wind tunnel at GM’s technical center in Warren, Michigan. Wind tunnel testing is a crucial element of car design, because the efficiency with which a vehicle slices through the air directly impacts how often customers will need to refill the gas tank.
In what we will affectionately refer to as the RSWT, clay models up to 40 percent (1/10 scale) the size of their human-carrying counterparts sit on a conveyor-style rolling road system capable of replicating highway driving conditions. (Models can get as small as 30 percent scale, but the tunnel is optimized for 40.)
Just because they’ve been hit by a shrink ray doesn’t mean these toddler-sized testers are simply hollow shells. The cars can feature highly detailed engines, functional suspension systems, and underbodies so aerodynamicists can properly test drag and airflow and get accurate assessments of how life-size vehicles would cut through wind on the road. And fun fact about the tiny tires: They’re made of carbon fiber, because plastic wheels “driving” at a simulated 155 mph would disintegrate.
Testing smaller models before making full-size vehicles certainly saves GM time and money. The shaped clay facsimiles are kept for an average of one to three years, and while many of the parts can be reused, the clay eventually dries out and has to be discarded. This sounds like a perfect excuse to make the Rust Detroit-themed lawn display of our dreams.