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Honda’s new wind tunnel can test anything from SUVs to race cars

Engineers in Honda’s research and development department have a powerful new tool at their disposal. The Japanese company invested $124 million to develop and build a surprisingly advanced wind tunnel that can be used to test a Civic, a race car and anything in between.

The main and most widely-known function of a wind tunnel is fine-tuning a vehicle’s aerodynamic profile, but Honda notes that it will also use the facility to test wind noise in a controlled environment. And, it plans to develop some of its future race cars in it. Building a wind tunnel that lets engineers carry out these three tasks required the use of seriously impressive hardware that explains the project’s nine-digit price tag.

Located in Ohio’s Transportation Research Center, the wind tunnel features a five-belt rolling system for developing production vehicles and a second wide-belt system that can be used to design high-performance sports cars and purpose-built race cars. It’s configured to blow wind at up to 193 mph (which, in meteorology, would be considered a category five hurricane) thanks in part to a 26-foot fan fitted with 12 carbon fiber blades and powered by an electric motor rated at 6,700 horsepower; that’s the power of nearly 22 Civic Type R four-cylinder engines.

It’s a system that’s a lot more complex and far bigger than it might sound. Honda explains that switching from the five-belt system (which consists of a belt under each wheel and a bigger one under the middle of the car) to the one-belt configuration (which places one big belt under the entire car) takes approximately four hours. Each belt module weighs approximately 40 tons, according to the firm.

What remains to be seen now is what Honda and Acura will hone in their new wind tunnel. How about a third-generation NSX?

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