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Two new Mercedes windtunnels allow earlier testing of prototypes in extreme climatic conditions (Photo: Mercedes)

Mercedes-Benz has inaugurated two new climatic wind tunnels that will enable the German premium carmaker to test new vehicles' performance in extreme weather conditions early in the development process.

The wind tunnels, located at Mercedes' Sindelfingen, Germany, site, can produce temperatures ranging from minus 40 to plus 60 degrees Celsius, hurricanes with wind speeds of up to 265 km/h, tropical rainfall and heavy snowstorms. That means Mercedes prototypes will have already been through extreme climatic testing before real-life road tests are undertaken.

Mercedes said the wind tunnels add a semi-real-life environment to the virtual world in which cars are developed. First development, initial crash tests, aerodynamic studies and suspension testing are all undertaken as electronic simulations in a virtual world.

Thomas Weber, head of r&d for Mercedes parent Daimler as well as the Mercedes brand, said the wind tunnels do away with the unpredictability of weather that Mercedes prototype testers have to deal with. "In our new climatic wind tunnels we can create whatever climate conditions we want at any time of year, whenever we need them. And we can do so with very tight tolerances, so the measurements can be reproduced at any time. That's just not possible out in the open air," Weber said in a press release.

Ulrich Mellinghoff, head of Mercedes Safety Development added the new wind tunnels will let the company do less road testing and be better prepared when it does conduct these tests. "We can meet our very challenging objectives much sooner," he said

The new tunnels can simulate virtually any environmental impact under a whole range of operating conditions.That gives test engineers the tools to test a vast array of vehicle components and functions.

The wind tunnels are designed to accommodate the use of hydrogen and can therefore be used to test all alternative drive systems of the future, Mercedes said. Special sensors and an effective air extraction system let engineers test fuel-cell powered vehicles in the tunnels.