Honda to invest $124M for new wind tunnel in East Liberty


Honda will invest $124 million to build a high-tech wind tunnel in East Liberty, the first time the company has invested in a full-scale facility of its kind in the U.S.

Construction of the facility will begin this spring and it will be housed at the Transportation Research Center, a 4,500-acre site that provides research and development, crash testing and other functions. The tunnel will be able to produce wind speeds of up to 192 miles per hour.

RELATED: Honda’s Logan County plant plays a major role in redesign of CR-V

Honda is a major employer in the region and across the state. About 1,400 workers from Clark and Champaign counties work for the automaker, and it employs about 13,000 Ohioans overall.

“The investment further strengthens Honda and Acura’s product development in North America and at the same time will bolster TRC’s reputation as a world-class multi-user testing facility,” said Chris Abbruzzese, a spokesman for the manufacturer.

The project is still in the early stages so it’s not clear what impact, if any, the project will have on job creation, he said. The wind tunnel will likely be operational by summer 2020.

DETAILS: Honda to invest $53M in data center in Ohio

“It will further enhance the development of Honda and Acura passenger cars and light trucks, while also providing the opportunity to immediately test the data and information we collect in a real-world environment at the proving grounds at the Transportation Research Center, which is adjacent to our North American research and development facilities,” Abbruzzese said.

The moves makes sense for Honda because much of the company’s research and development infrastructure is based in Ohio, said Stephanie Brinley, an auto analyst for IHS Markit. The company has a wind tunnel in Japan but she said opening one in the U.S. would give the manufacturer more flexibility.

“It’s continued to give the North America region more responsibility for product development,” Brinley said. “This would suggest that’s going to continue.”

The wind tunnel will use an interchangeable belt system capable of testing both production vehicles and race cars, according to information from Honda. Among other design issues, the site will allow Honda to develop new ways to reduce wind noise in its vehicles during development by using a system of microphones and cameras to measure potential noise issues on both the interior and exterior of the vehicles.

“The wind tunnel really comes in when you’re designing the vehicle, and when you’re tweaking a face-lift and when you’re changing the exterior of a vehicle,” Brinley said. “

READ MORE: Honda sets new sales record

The site will also provide enough space for four customer bays, allowing other businesses to use the facility.

“It’s an important investment for Honda’s capabilities but it’s not an unusual investment for an automaker to do,” Brinley said.

Honda purchased the Transportation Research Center, where the wind tunnel will be built, for $31 million in 1988. It’s managed by TRC Inc., a nonprofit affiliated with Ohio State University. Surplus funds from operating the facility are used to support endowments at Ohio State’s College of Engineering.

“While Honda owns the land and is the landlord, TRC is an independent proving ground with Honda as a major customer,” University Engineering Dean David Williams said.

MORE BUSINESS NEWS: Honda’s impact goes beyond manufacturing

Ohio State will hire faculty who are experts in design and other specialties as the project nears completion. The university also conducts similar research for the aerospace industry, he said.

The university is also growing with more demand from engineering students, Williams said, and will grow by about 70 faculty members over the next five years in areas like automotive, aerospace and manufacturing.

“We will have faculty, staff and students who are working with Honda researchers at the wind tunnel,” Williams said. “We’ll be building that up over the next couple of years as the construction takes place.”

The TRC is the nation’s largest independent automotive proving grounds, according to information from the company. The site has about 475 employees and about 1,000 customers.

“We’ll have faculty, staff and students ready to go and continue working with Honda researchers, as we do in many other areas,” Williams said.

The research center’s proximity to Honda’s North American research and development facilities is also expected to provide benefits to the company.

“This is really going to add increased efficiency to our development process, which is a tremendous advantage for us and for our customers,” Abbruzzese said. “It’s really going to be a unique facility in that respect.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Springfield business property sold for $15M
Springfield business property sold for $15M

A private equity firm based in Atlanta recently purchased a business property leased by Eby-Brown for $15 million as part of a larger real estate transaction, according to the firm’s founder. Records from the Clark County Auditor’s Office shows the property at 1982 Commerce Circle in Springfield was recently purchased by a limited liability...
Bob Evans Farms is sold: 3 things you need to know
Bob Evans Farms is sold: 3 things you need to know

Post Holdings will acquire Bob Evans Farms for $1.5 billion, adding vegetable-based side dishes and breakfast sausages to its portfolio, the companies announced Tuesday. Post Holdings and Bob Evans Farms have entered into a definitive agreement in which Post will acquire Bob Evans for $77 per share. The deal does not affect Bob Evans restaurants, which...
Unemployment rates drop in August in Clark, Champaign counties
Unemployment rates drop in August in Clark, Champaign counties

Unemployment rates fell in Clark and Champaign counties in August while economists said results at the state level showed mixed results. The unemployment rate in Clark County fell to 5 percent in August, according to information from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services released Tuesday. That’s down from July’s 5.7 percent unemployment...
Walgreens acquires Rite Aid for $4.4B: What it means for consumers
Walgreens acquires Rite Aid for $4.4B: What it means for consumers

Walgreens has secured regulatory clearance to buy Rite Aid for $4.4 billion. Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. will buy 1,932 stores, three distribution centers and related inventory from Rite Aid for an all-cash purchase price of $4.375 billion on a cash-free, debt-free basis. Rite Aid will retain approximately 250 additional stores as compared to the...
Bob Evans Farms has been sold for $1.5B
Bob Evans Farms has been sold for $1.5B

Post Holdings, Inc. will acquire Bob Evans Farms, Inc. for $1.5 billion, the companies announced today. Post Holdings and Bob Evans Farms have entered into a definitive agreement in which Post will acquire Bob Evans for $77.00 per share. The deal will “significantly strengthen Post’s portfolio of brands, expand choices for customers and...
More Stories