Stellantis said it recently invested EUR33 million in two of its global testing facilities.

The recent enhancements include:

Orbassano Safety Centre, near Turin, Italy, is fully integrated with digital engineering processes and significantly upgraded to host four test tracks with four impact points and capabilities for full testing of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and automated driving technology for passenger cars, trucks, and light commercial vehicles.

Wind Tunnel in Auburn Hills, Michigan, being scaled up with the addition of moving ground plane technology, simulating on-road travel and providing more accurate aerodynamics measurement of vehicles. Reducing wind drag benefits the driving range of BEVs.

“Our world-class tech hubs across the globe are doing the work today that will make tomorrow’s Stellantis vehicles industry leaders in capability, performance and safety,” said Harald Wester, chief engineering officer.

“Our engineering community is fuelled by talent, diversity and global reach, and we are intensely working with the other global functions, as our Monozokuri peers, to energise the core of our technological transformation. It gives us a comprehensive view of the challenges and enables us to consider and refine a full menu of mobility solutions that will put us in the front row of the race to innovate and improve.”

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The EUR5 million in upgrades for the Orbassano Safety Centre give it the capability to test all types of electrified vehicles – mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles. The facility currently runs at least two crash tests a day and is on track to test more than 275 electrified vehicles this year. Vehicles tested at Orbassano can be certified to meet more than 175 international safety and technological standards.

The impact zone of the test tracks is fitted with a Messring movable block for front and side-impact tests, and Orbassano runs some of the industry’s most-challenging tests including the passenger-side small overlap test being used by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Orbassano’s test tracks include a computer-driven camera positioning system with 13 moveable outboard camera locations over the impact point. In addition, the tracks include the capability for underbody high-speed video, while up to five cameras can be mounted on board the test vehicle.

All these views, plus the instrumented data, provide engineers with invaluable data for evaluating current and future vehicle designs. Additionally, the data is shared with facilities around the world, including the additional safety testing centres in Belchamp, France; Chelsea, Michigan, and Betim, Brazil, to refine digital vehicle development models.

This facility is fully integrated with the safety digital engineering process, allowing the most efficient vehicle development and virtually covering all possible field crash scenarios.

The new tracks are ready to accommodate future test modes related to the introduction of automated driving functions on all types of vehicles.

Orbassano’s arsenal includes static and dynamic test fixtures for factors such as pedestrian impact, roof crush and rollover, and test sleds to evaluate seating and vehicle interiors. Seat and interior testing become more critical as the adoption of future automated driving technologies hold the potential for new cabin seating configurations.

At the wind tunnel complex in Auburn Hills, Michigan, construction is in progress to install moving ground plane technology (rolling road), which simulates on-road travel while allowing test vehicles to remain static. Stellantis is investing $29.5 million in the project.

Belts enable wheel movement at all four corners of the vehicle while a fifth belt runs beneath the vehicle as if it were rolling over a roadway. Moving ground plane technology also enables measurement of ventilation drag, which is the resistance associated exclusively with wheels and tyres in motion. It accounts for up to 10 percent of total, real-world aerodynamic drag.

The existing aerodynamic test facility in Auburn Hills generates wind speeds up to 140 mph. The moving ground plane installation, part of an estimated $85 million commitment included in the company’s 2019 contract with the United Auto Workers, is scheduled to become operational in 2024.

The added capability will complement the aero-acoustic wind tunnel in Auburn Hills as part of a global network of leading-edge centres also equipped with moving ground plane technology, including two facilities in Europe.