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GM's Reduced Scale Wind Tunnel Optimizes Vehicle Designs

November 10, 2015

An aerodynamics engineer tests airflow over a Chevrolet Cruze 40-percent scale model in Reduced Scale Wind Tunnel. Photo courtesy of GM. 
An aerodynamics engineer tests airflow over a Chevrolet Cruze 40-percent scale model in Reduced Scale Wind Tunnel. Photo courtesy of GM.

General Motors has begun using a new, 35,000-square-foot reduced scale wind tunnel to test clay models up to 40% of the scale of a vehicle to accelerate and verify fuel-saving designs earlier in development of new cars and trucks.

The automaker added the new wind tunnel to a test facility on the campus of the company's Technical Center, according to a release.

The tunnel is equipped with a conveyor-style rolling road system that simulates real-world highway driving conditions up to a top speed of 155 mph. Testing reduced-sized vehicles on a simulated road allows aerodynamic engineers to reduce wind drag in a full-size vehicle design.

Advanced 3D printing machines create underbodies and engine blocks that are detailed and to scale for the reduced sized clay models. Working suspensions with spinning wheels allow aerodynamic engineers to better examine how airflow affects a vehicle's underbody while in motion, resulting in quieter cars and trucks that can cost customers less to operate.

The new aerodynamic test facility is located next to a full-scale wind tunnel that has been in operation since 1980. The original full-scale wind tunnel will be upgraded next year with its own full-scale rolling road system and other improvements, according to the company.

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