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xDrive, brakes, electronics... tested in their interaction
BMW Group new polar test base
For BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce

BMW X3 testing at the German group test base in Arjeplog in northern Sweden.

BMW X3 testing in Arjeplog: it is not only extreme temperatures that make the region so attractive to the engineer, but rather the consistently cold temperatures lasting several months, allowing reproducibility of complete test series time and again.

5th April 2006.

Just 56 kilometres or 35 miles south of the Polar Circle, the BMW Group now has a new, Group-owned test base in the town of Arjeplog in northern Sweden.

The new test centre offers perfect climatic and logistic conditions for testing vehicle components and new models in the process of reaching production standards.

The German group invested some Euro 16 million in the new facilities and buildings (the Swedish government supported this investment with a 15 per cent grant) for all of the Groups winter test activities for the BMW, MINI, and Rolls Royce brands, to replace several former test sites in a number of countries.

Close cooperation of engineers in numerous divisions at the new centre facilitates the integration of work processes, particularly in the development of networked systems such as BMWs intelligent xDrive all-wheel-drive technology.

Operating in conjunction with DSC Dynamic Stability Control, xDrive is particularly efficient in distributing drive forces not only for optimum traction, but also for controlled and safe driving dynamics in bends. No less than 21 BMW models are now available with xDrive and current developments indicate that more than every fourth BMW sold worldwide will be equipped with this all-wheel drive system.

Still, BMW is going even further, focusing on the ICM Integrated Chassis Management project, to combine a wide range of drive and control systems and integrate even more components in an all-round control philosophy.

BMW X5 testing in Arjeplog.

Temperatures relatively constant from Nov to Apr at an average of - 10 C.

The new test centre in northern Sweden offers optimum conditions for developing such technologies, allowing precise test and development under consistent conditions for the drivetrain, suspension, steering and brakes tested either individually or in their all-round interaction. This is what the BMW Group defines as networked development of fully integrated systems.

Arjeplog has been the preferred destination for winter testing for years, not only by the Bavarian-based group. Driving on frozen lakes and snowbound roads is not only a gruelling test under extreme conditions, but also a particular challenge for new drive systems.

With the new test centre built exclusively for the requirements of the BMW Group, the German manufacturer of premium cars is now highly autonomous at a location ideally suited for this purpose: an ultra-modern test centre offering optimum working conditions.

BMW X3 with Hill Descent Control system (a sub-system of the DSC with xDrive).

HDC Hill Descent Control helps to descend down gradients at a steady, consistent speed, with the brakes acting smoothly on all four wheels.

Test routes are available from November until April also on the frozen Kakel Lake directly next to the BMW test centre.

Building the test centre, BMW considered also the requirements involved in testing and maintenance of cars with hydrogen drive, as well as a secure network integrating the Arjeplog test centre within the BMW Groups Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) in Munich.

Previously, tests were conducted at rented facilities and in areas leased by the company for test purposes. Now, with a company-owned test area, BMW benefits from far greater flexibility in terms of both space and time management, and has the opportunity to develop and test vehicles and components with an even higher level of all-round integration, involving components such as brake control systems, power units and major modules, as well as overall vehicle testing procedures.

From November to March, an average of 100 BMW engineers and mechanics work at the test centre, with up to 200 specialists employed on the site in peak periods, usually going to Arjeplog for a period of two weeks.

Test crews are accommodated in housing offered by local service providers, who also serve food and drinks. So for this reason alone, the test centre plays an economic role for Arjeplog and the entire Province of Norrbotten.

BMW has been conducting a wide range of tests in Arjeplog for many decades, helping to make this small town the most important winter testing centre for the entire automotive industry.

The advantages offered by the Arjeplog region may be summed up by three factors in particular: weather conditions, geographical advantages, and... low population density. If you dare wondering why, temperatures in northern Sweden remain relatively constant between November and April at an average of 10 C below zero.

BMW 530xi Touring with the all-wheel-drive xDrive system.

The new BMW 5 Series is equipped with xDrive since April 2005, with the six-cylinder power units the BMW 525xi and BMW 530xi (photo, Touring version) and, as of last autumn, the diesel-powered BMW 530xd.

While the thermometer may drop to 40 C and even further below zero (the Swedish cold temperature record of 52.7 C was measured in... Arjeplog), these relatively consistent temperatures offer ideal conditions for reproducible testing, with the many lakes in the area freezing over from October until May.

Contrary to common belief, however, it is not these extremes that make the Lapland so attractive to the engineer, but rather the consistently cold temperatures lasting several months and, as a result, the reproducibility of complete test series time and again.

In Norrbotten, the most sparsely populated province in Sweden, just 3,300 people live in the entire community of Arjeplog, an area the size of Belgium, and just 1,800 live in the small town of Arjeplog itself. The latter comes really to life in winter, the local population suddenly booming to several thousand as soon as test teams from all over the world arrive in the reliably cold weather of the Polar Circle with hundreds of cars.

Properly prepared, the ice on the lakes will be up to one metre thick, allowing not only passenger cars but even trucks to drive on the lakes. Test circuits with various frictional coefficients may be prepared on such icy surfaces and are then available for constant use over a long period. A further important advantage is that the noise inevitably caused by such testing procedures is hardly a problem in this part of Sweden with the lowest level of population density.

Most tests are conducted during the day, with tests at night being extremely unusual. In other test regions such as the Alps, on the other hand, many tests have to be conducted at night, since this is the only time when temperatures remain sufficiently consistent over several hours.

In the light of these many advantages, numerous suppliers to the car industry also develop and test their latest components and systems in Arjeplog, the presence of nearly all system suppliers on the spot offering BMWs test team even better conditions for integrating various systems, components and technologies. Next >>>

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