The Process of Making an Aerodynamically Efficient Car Body for the SAE Supermileage Competition 2012-01-0176
In the summer of 2010, a new body shell for the SAE Supermileage car of Laval University was designed. The complete shell design process included, amongst other steps, the generation of a shape through the parametric shape modeling software Unigraphics NX7 and the evaluation of aerodynamic forces acting on the chassis using the open source Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software OpenFOAM. The CFD analyses were ran at steady-state using a k-omega-SST turbulence model and roughly 2.5 million cells.
An efficient method for evaluating the effect of ambient wind conditions and vehicle trajectory on the track was developed. It considers the proportion of time that the car operates at each combination of velocity and wind yaw angle and computes the overall energy demand of the shell. An iterative process was conducted over a significant number of different shapes, which were generated by joining formula-based guide curves using intersection and tangency conditions.
The new shell has a 25 % larger frontal area due to modified design constraints. When aerodynamically compared to the smaller and already highly efficient old vehicle, reductions of 50 % of the negative lift, 15 % of the energy demand when driving forward, and 5 % of the energy demand when turning are achieved by the new design. Also, the drag coefficient is reduced by 20 %. These improvements come from the quasi-NACA profiles on the side and top walls; a reduction of cavities to prevent redundant frontal areas; a short vehicle and smother wheel cover closures; and a thorough study of the nose and tail. This paper describes numerical flow simulations and the changes that were brought to the vehicle body to make it as aerodynamically efficient as possible.