Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground wins international awards
A Central Otago-based winter car testing facility specialising in counter-seasonal vehicle testing, has won two international awards.
The Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground (SHPG), based high on the Pisa Range between Queenstown and Wanaka, has been named Proving Ground of the Year and won the supreme prize of Automotive Testing Technology Company of the Year.
This year more than 45 companies tested and developed their products at the proving ground.
The accolades have come from the Automotive Testing Technology International Awards, with the New Zealand-based facility up against stiff competition from companies as far afield as the UK and China.
The managing director Tom Elworthy said the proving ground hosted more than 45 companies and more than 500 engineers and support staff between mid-June and early September.
They came from original equipment manufacturers, suppliers and tyre sectors.
“We also tested snowblowers, earthmoving excavators and trucks."
SHPG General Manager Shaun Gilbertson said winning the awards was testament to the hard work and dedication of the operation’s staff -- mainly drawn from Wanaka and Queenstown -- and suppliers.
Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground staff members Shaun Gilbertson, Judy Thomas, Steve Gould and Kerry Poots. Picture/Supplied.
“When we open we’re all go for a relatively short period of time, so it’s all hands on deck on a daily basis and everyone goes above and beyond to make it happen. We really wouldn’t be as successful as we are without the staff we have and our wonderful suppliers.”
Attracting car manufacturers from around the world seeking a secure facility in which to test new vehicles in winter conditions, SHPG covers 400ha of privately-owned land open from June to September each year.
The proving ground has been operating for almost 11 years, and has just completed its tenth winter season.
Mr Elworthy said more than $40million had been invested to move SHPG to the forefront of winter testing globally.
“In recent years we’ve invested heavily in new technology, machinery, snowmaking equipment and most importantly our people, meaning we now have a very diverse array of facilities and tracks to accommodate our range of clients from around the globe.
“We’ve grown from offering 12 facilities to 16, each of them individual areas that can be hired by a customer.”
Most commonly each facility would include a snow flat (large machine-prepared area), handling track (machine-prepared snow road) a workshop and an office, all exclusively independent from other facilities.
Mr Elworthy said the company's future focus was on meeting the needs of its clients as 'real-world' testing remained a critical part of the development programme of any vehicle.
“We’re planning to install hydrogen refuelling in the near future and will continue to work with clients to install charging facilities for them as the need arises.
“We already have numerous chargers installed in various locations and are seeing growing demand for this infrastructure, not surprisingly.”
Mr Elworthy said the company saw testing of autonomous and assisted-driving vehicles “rapidly coming our way” and was working closely with the New Zealand government to facilitate this.
“New Zealand is the perfect test-bed for such technologies due to the wide variety of environments easily accessible within very short distances, and the availability of closed facilities as required."