PARIS – Renault SA and PSA Peugeot Citroen inaugurate two new wind tunnels the auto makers have jointly funded with French researchers.

Citroen tests C3 in new French wind tunnel.

The first, a full size tunnel able to handle minivans such as the Peugeot 807, will be operating later this month. The second, for 2/5 scale models, will be operational in October.

The €36 million ($40.6 million) project, called S2A, is aimed at lowering fuel consumption and aerodynamic noise, while increasing vehicle stability, especially in crosswinds.

The wind tunnel project was agreed to in December 1999, and construction began in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, France, outside Paris in July 2001.

Winds to 149mph (240 km/h) can be simulated in both tunnels. The large tunnel features a turntable, which allows the vehicle to be tested in crosswinds, as well as a rolling floor, permitting the vehicle’s wheels to turn. It also is fitted to conduct acoustic tests, while the small tunnel is for aerodynamic testing only.

The wind tunnels will be operated by an independent administrative council, with members appointed by Renault, PSA and the CNAM Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers ). The S2A project has seven employees and will add five more when demand warrants.