One-of-a-kind research facility to test vehicles of the future

Recipient: Ontario Tech University
Region: Oshawa
Program: Investing in Business Growth and Productivity
Total federal funding allocated: $9.5 million

The Moving Ground Plane in initial stages of assembly at ACE
The moving ground plane in initial stages of assembly at ACE.

With any product development, realistic testing is critical for a safe and useful product. At Ontario Tech University, the Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE) is leading the charge in providing realistic road testing for industry leaders, researchers, as well as training the next generation looking to the future of a rapidly changing sector.

This 175,400-square-foot world-class research and development facility is a flexible, dynamic and secure one-stop shop with a full range of testing facilities, educational and research labs, and offices for faculty, academic and industry visitors. With five different testing chambers, the facility and its engineers and technicians can help solve any testing problems, with a focus on bringing innovations to market as quickly as possible.

With a $9.5-million contribution from FedDev Ontario, Ontario Tech’s ACE has ramped up research capabilities at its climatic wind tunnel. The wind tunnel can simulate any weather condition, including rain, freezing rain, light snow and blizzards—with wind speeds of up to 300 km/h and temperatures ranging from -40C to +60C.

The University has almost completed a series of enhancements to the existing wind tunnel that will give it best-in-class aerodynamic testing capability. Included is a seven-metre, single belt moving ground plane (MGP) to simulate the motion of the road under the vehicle. This will create even more realistic road testing, giving a leg up to students and researchers by allowing the development of new technologies to increase fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

"The ACE Enhancement project is going to take our world class research facility and make it even better," says Dr. Steven Murphy, President & Vice-Chancellor, Ontario Tech University. "It will be the only place in the world where aerodynamics, thermal energy management and acoustics research can take place in the same location at the same time. The discoveries that will be made are expected to transform aero/thermal R&D and uncover game changing approaches to maximize the energy efficiency and emission reduction of the vehicles."

It is a pivotal time for the automotive industry. Consumer interest in greener and autonomous vehicles is on the rise. It’s important for a wide variety of realistic tests to be available to the next generation of designers.

Thermal, structural durability, aero acoustics, vibrations and, upon completion of the project, pure aerodynamics and coupled aero/thermal testing will help Canadian automotive companies improve vehicle safety, reliability, passenger comfort and energy efficiency, accelerating time to market.

Better simulation of real world driving scenarios will be imperative in developing technologies that will transform the automobile industry. This capability is key to the electric vehicle work taking place at Ontario Tech. Management of thermal energy from electric vehicles plays a crucial role in the efficiency and range they are capable of reaching. Aerodynamics, particularly underbody vehicle aerodynamics, is fundamental to achieving this and the MGP is a critical component of being able to do this underbody aerodynamic work.

"Ontario Tech University is extremely proud of its role in helping Durham Region celebrate its rich history in the automotive sector while supporting the transition of the community from traditional manufacturing to high-value added research and development," says Dr. Murphy. "Ontario Tech's ACE Enhancement project ensures that the region, Ontario and Canada are at the forefront of technology development and supporting Canadian automotive companies to compete internationally. Having this one-of-a-kind facility located in Oshawa ensures the community will play a vital role in the future of the automotive industry by bringing a competitive advantage to the sector during a critical time."

All of these advantages will put southern Ontario and the Canadian automotive sector at the forefront of meeting higher demands for better design, increased safety, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and overall improved energy efficiency in the vehicles of tomorrow.

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ACE's moving-ground plane will provide Ontario's automotive industry and research community with the unrivalled capability to develop new innovations that reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
Larry Holt, Vice President, Engineering, Multimatic