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September 20, 2009

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Fresh air for car design industry

THE country's first automobile wind tunnel was launched in Shanghai yesterday in a bid to support the Chinese automotive industry in its transition from "made in China" to "designed in China."

The Shanghai Automotive Wind Tunnel Center, which can simulate all kinds of driving environments and test vehicles' basic standards, is essential for research and development.

China, as a huge car manufacturing country with an expected 12 million car sales this year, had suffered from the absence of such a facility.

Domestic automobile manufactures had to pay high transport fees, apart from the time factor, to send a new design abroad for testing. There was also the fear that design secrets could be leaked.

With the technology localized, businesses will be able to reduce costs by 15 percent, researchers said.

"I cherished the dream of developing the country's first automobile wind tunnel nine years ago when I came back from Germany," Wan Gang, China's Minister of Science and Technology, said yesterday at the opening ceremony. "It is realized today."

In contrast to overseas wind tunnels which are mainly built by private enterprise, the Chinese project is a national project undertaken by Shanghai's Tongji University.

"Overseas companies' wind tunnels may have more limited testing fields, this center will be a public testing platform catering to a wide range of testing needs of cars as well as the high-speed train project and commercial aircraft project in China," said Yang Zhigang, director of the new center and a former aerodynamics expert at NASA in the United States.

Construction began in 2004 and the total cost of the center was 490 million yuan (US$72 million).

The new facility is in Jiading District, which has become an "auto city" with a vehicle inspection and examination center, a test-drive center and a new-energy center.

The simulated wind in the tunnel has been described as "the most expensive wind in the world" as it costs US$1.5 per second to operate, according to experts.


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