Each year, Ford brings global prototype vehicles and a team of engineers to the world’s largest climatic test facility – McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle – to push the limits of extreme cold-weather testing in order to improve vehicle quality and performance for customers.
In this sophisticated, all-weather facility used by the U.S. Air Force to test every aircraft in the Department of Defense inventory , Ford engineers can get temperatures down as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in a span of just 10 hours. The hot, humid climate of northwest Florida in August has no impact on conditions inside the lab – making it ideal for simulating winter in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay or Canada’s Yellowknife region.
So when it’s the middle of a development cycle, or the middle of summer, and there’s no access to a natural environment where engineers can evaluate whether a vehicle is starting as robustly as it should in below-freezing temperatures, McKinley Climatic Lab allows Ford to simulate, calibrate and validate – all under one roof.
The opportunity to accommodate 75 global prototype vehicles of all sizes for rigorous testing – plus house a versatile team of 54 engineers and technical experts – creates efficiency in the company’s product development cycle that helps Ford learn in just three weeks what could take twice as long in a smaller facility. Collecting multiple data sets, analyzing results, and comparing and contrasting enables Ford engineers to quickly implement changes that enhance vehicle quality and ultimately benefit the customer.