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The goal of this world-class research and training facility is to provide solutions to complex automotive issues.

car being tested in testing centre

There’s a facility in Oshawa, Ont., that’s known to automakers and parts suppliers from around the globe. The Automotive Centre of Excellence, dubbed ACE, is housed out of Ontario Tech University and it includes technology unlike any in the world — there’s a climatic wind tunnel, a single-belt moving ground plane for aerodynamic development and thermal testing capabilities. “Our environment can recreate any weather conditions a test object will experience anywhere in the world, from the blistering heat in Death Valley to the frigid conditions in the Arctic. We can test vehicles operating under full load with crosswinds and wind speeds up to 280 km/hr,” says Andrew Karski, ACE’s marketing specialist and account manager. 

The 16,300-square-metre integrated research and training centre is owned and operated by Ontario Tech University and was developed in partnership with the school, General Motors of Canada, the government of Ontario, the federal government and the Partners for Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education. Spanning five floors, there are dedicated areas for research and hands-on education, and there’s a symbiotic relationship between industry and students that truly drives automotive research. “ACE is a world-class research and development facility and has experienced engineers and technicians to deliver solutions to any product development or testing problem. Since opening in June 2011, the team has conducted more than 2,500 tests for clients, earning experience and expertise we make available to current and potential customers,” Karski explains. At its core, “ACE is a technical solutions provider that fosters education, research, development and innovation that is market driven and serves universities and industry. It takes a leadership role in major industry, including the tech industry,” he says. Ontario Tech’s ACE research and development centre has already established an excellent reputation around the world for its excellence in engineering and its impressive capacity for aerodynamic testing, as well as its research and development in thermal management of new products in the automotive sector.

University student checking the acoustic of a car in the shop

The ACE climatic wind tunnel (CWT) test chamber is an absolute marvel and known as one of the most sophisticated wind tunnels in the world.

The ACE climatic wind tunnel (CWT) test chamber is an absolute marvel and known as one of the most sophisticated wind tunnels in the world. It features a large road simulator that can test properties in crosswinds. “It’s designed to provide a multitude of industries with world-class and independent testing capabilities to validate prototype products under a wide range of climatic conditions,” he says. Simulation systems include rain, freezing rain, light snow, and blizzards, all with wind speeds capable of 300 km/hr and at temperatures ranging from -40ºC to 60ºC. “The ACE CWT is unique due to its seven to 14.5 m² variable nozzle, which enables testing of subjects ranging from very small to extremely large, in a wide variety of wind and climatic combinations.” The centre’s four-post shaker can test a car’s ability to handle a range of unique road conditions.

ACE is also heavily involved in Project Arrow. The concept, which was announced by Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) in January 2020, is described as a “visionary and ambitious plan for an all-Canadian zero-emission concept vehicle to be designed, engineered and built by the country’s world-class automotive supply sector and post-secondary institutions,” says Paula Ambra, assistant chief engineer at Project Arrow. Ontario Tech University will work with other post-secondary schools, as well as suppliers, to create a domestic zero-emissions alternative-fuel vehicle by 2022. “Project Arrow’s name draws inspiration from the pride and buzz generated during the creation of the fabled Avro Arrow interceptor aircraft in the 1950s. Widely considered one of Canada’s greatest engineering achievements, the Arrow program ended with an abrupt cancellation, spawning years of controversy and speculation,” she explains. “However, the learnings of Canadian engineers through the original Arrow program later proved critical to the success of the U.S. space program — in particular the lunar module used during NASA’s Apollo program from 1963 to 1972. The APMA hopes to apply that same level of engineering excitement to creation of a Canadian zero-emissions vehicle.”

Project Arrow’s engineering team headquarters is at the ACE Innovation Garage. “The automotive industry typically moves quickly from concept to production, and ACE can accommodate that fast pace by providing rapid access to proof-of-concept testing. ACE is engaged in product development partnerships with many Canadian automotive suppliers and industry leaders which is supporting Ontario Tech’s leading role in Project Arrow,” says Ambra.

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