Ford VPEL Replicates Sunlight Conditions

The interior and exterior of a vehicle can look different depending on where the sun casts its light at different times of the day, and that is exactly what Ford focuses on to offer the optimal aesthetics in its vehicles. The Visual Performance Evaluation Lab (VPEL) at Ford uses 6,000 watts of electrical energy generated by 270 spotlights and floodlights to replicate the various phases of the earth’s revolution around the sun.

This is made with the flip of a switch and is used to replicate sunlight conditions from dawn to dusk in order to test glare and reflection in vehicle interiors. Additional adjustments are made to simulate and study the effects of weather conditions.

“The VPEL allows us to see how various interior components would work under different sun load conditions, meaning clear sky, overcast sky, dusk or dawn, or artificial light conditions such as how interior components would appear in a dealer showroom,”
explains Mahendra Dassanayake, a Ford lighting technical specialist.

The lab has also helped Ford engineers develop the latest LED backlighting and general illumination of the company’s vehicle interiors, including placing illumination in the right locations and using the appropriate amount of brightness and color.

Prior to the development of the VPEL, the lighting team did the bulk of its testing by taking cars out on the road under different sky conditions to try and evaluate interior components and identify potential problems like washouts, but it was a time-consuming task.

According to Dassanayake, the VPEL has afforded designers and technicians the unique opportunity to test components faster and at a much earlier stage of development.

“We think the work we do in the lighting lab is evident in the high consumer quality rankings of our vehicles,” he explained. “In this era of global product development, we need to have all of the ‘what if’ studies done up front and make sure they’re conducive to what’s right in the field for the customer.”

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