By Blythe Alspaugh
EAST LIBERTY — One of the realized goals of the Honda Automotive Laboratories of Ohio (HALO) wind tunnel is maximized efficiency — a dream come true for engineers within the automotive company.
“We have the full suite of some of the best tools in the world, now to apply that to the new products,” HALO Facilities Manager Mike Unger said.
The $124 million state-of-the-art wind tunnel facility was officially unveiled to the public Monday, March 21 in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the independent Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC), less than three miles west of the East Liberty Auto Plant. The new HALO facility is the world’s most advanced wind tunnel, with three separate state-of-the art testing functions — aerodynamics, aeroacoustics, and racing — in one location. The HALO facility is the first facility of its kind to offer all three testing functions under one roof.
“It’s all right here, and it’s now easier for us to do — it’s easier for us to come over here and work on details. We don’t have to schedule things six to eight months in advance and try to squeeze in time where it’s available at other tunnels. It’ll make things much easier,” Unger said.
Having engineers working at the facility with focuses in motorsports and racing, acoustics and aerodynamics has opened what Unger refers to as “cross-talk”; while all the groups are doing similar work and testing, the fact that they’re coming from different perspectives will help the facility develop new ways of doing things that are more efficient and better serve the company and the customer.
“We could never work side-by-side, because the aero group was in one part of the county and the acoustic group was on the other side of the country and the motorsports guys were somewhere else. It was just a matter of getting them all together; we’re going to have a lot of cool stuff going on,” Unger said.
With full, heavy testing available, the facility will bring in prototype vehicles that are anywhere from six months to a year away from mass production and will administer tuning on the prototype. Testing will help with changes in shape, gaps, seals and making sure that the design is generating the performance that Honda is looking for.
“We’re close to factories, so we can support factory quality; we can do factory sampling. We can take five mass production vehicles right off the line, test all five of them, and make sure the quality of the wind noise is where we want it to be,” Unger said. “If we see a problem, we can make a change and feed it right back to the factory, because they’re right down the road. There’s no better place to put it.”
Previously, if vehicles needed to be tested, they were sent to testing facilities in either Marietta, Georgia or Mooresville, North Carolina, and would need to be scheduled anywhere from six to eight months in advance. With the HALO facility being the most advanced testing facility worldwide, it’s a step toward Honda’s move toward an electrified future.
“Honda’s product development capabilities will advance to new heights thanks to this investment in our Ohio research operations,” said Jim Keller, executive vice president of Honda Development & Manufacturing of America, LLC (HDMA), and leader of the company’s North American Auto Development Center. “With this new facility, Honda is not simply investing in an advanced technology facility but in the future of the Honda engineers and other researchers who will work here.”
The new wind tunnel also presents an opportunity for Honda engineers to build relationships with other companies interested in aerodynamic and aeroacoustic research, support STEM activities, and sustain the general aerodynamic community’s testing needs.
The HALO wind tunnel is Honda’s latest major investment in Ohio, where the company has been advancing its ability to develop and build products for over 40 years — now totaling $14 billion.