Kapuskasing is GM’s North American cold-weather testing grounds.
Temperatures can dip below -40C, which constitutes is very cold.
The facility officially opened its doors in 1973.
As we wearily leave a very cold February behind us and look forward to spring, there’s a group among GM’s vast engineering and development resources that need the cold. Way up in Kapuskasing, Ontario, is GM’s full-scale permanent cold-weather test facility where vehicles have been tested in the most rigorous conditions for nearly 50 years.
In fact, GM began testing military vehicles for the government in Kapuskasing in 1941 but the last half-century has seen most of GM’s new vehicle spend some time basking in the sun-drenched yet uber-chilly Northern-Ontario air.
The Grounds include, which sit on 272 acres of land, features a 3.6km advanced test track with full WiFi coverage and a smart camera system, a 13-vehicle garage, and no less than 30 cold cells capable of recreating seriously cold weather conditions of up to, or down to, -45C.
It is at this facility that GM engineers torture test everything from batteries (in a lab or outdoors), various mechanical components, and all other systems that ensure a vehicle’s operation. The goal is to discover, or possibly reproduce, situations and circumstances that consumers may face on a daily basis.
During the months between December and February, anywhere from 150-250 vehicles are put to the test on the Cold Weather Vehicle Line. The Cold Weather Exposure Line sees about 30 vehicles put through a cold weather exposure test.
These vehicles are tested non-stop, 24/7 in fact, and can range from early prototypes all the way to occasionally evaluating production models already on sale. Depending on a given vehicle’s development cycle, such as a hand-built near-production model, it is possible that some return for a second round of the freezes the following winter for further analysis.
While it’s obvious that internal combustion engine vehicles have been doing the rounds at the facility for almost 50 years, electric vehicles have only circulated on the frozen grounds for a few years. Most of the testing for both types of vehicles is identical, from complex safety systems to doors, for example, however, EVs are further investigated for evident reasons. Electric vehicle assessing at Kapuskasing has resulted in numerous improvements being made to batteries and drive systems in order to enhance range, among other things.
The Kapuskasing Proving Grounds is the largest automotive cold weather development facility in Ontario. It is part of GM’s Canadian Technical Centre which, including campuses in Markham and Oshawa, has become the largest software engineering and development centre for GM outside the U.S.
If you’re curious about what the facility looks like, you can plug the address in Google maps. Here’s the address:
Kapuskasing Proving Grounds General Motors
204 Government Road West
Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada