Aerodynamic modelling and further optimisation of solar powered vehicle.
Lawrence, Christopher Jon.
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Computational fluid dynamics was used to optimise the aerodynamics of a solar powered vehicle via the addition of airflow alteration devices that interact with the boundary layer airflow. These features were designed, manufactured and applied to the vehicle while ensuring that the bulk geometry remained unmodified. The modifications had to be added to the vehicle non-invasively, and had to allow for removal during race conditions. The solar vehicle raced in both the Sasol Solar Challenge (SASC) which took place in September 2014 and the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (WSC) which took place in September 2015. Aerodynamic drag is the single largest energy loss experienced by a solar vehicle; it is therefore essential that the aerodynamics of these vehicles be highly refined if they are to be competitive. The UKZN solar vehicle placed first in South Africa in the SASC and 13th in the WSC - indisputably outstanding results. The features to be refined were chosen to reduce aerodynamic drag caused by the wheel spokes as well as the canopy due to these being high turbulence zones and having high curvatures respectively. The principles applied were to reduce turbulence caused by the wheel spokes by adding to the wheel geometry, and adding turbulence to the canopy airflow through the use of a technique commonly known as flow tripping. While turbulence caused by the wheels is undesirable, the turbulence added by flow tripping is desirable as it reduces the size of the separated region of airflow behind the canopy, allowing for a net reduction in aerodynamic drag. Wheel geometry alteration was done via the addition of smooth and dimpled covers, so as to mitigate the turbulence caused by the wheel spokes. Many techniques were considered to trip the airflow on the canopy, it was found that vortex generators of specific geometry and dimensions would reduce drag more effectively. Another airflow altering device, a NACA duct, was designed and manufactured. This duct was placed on the canopy to allow airflow into the driver compartment which enabled adherence to race rules and allowed for driver cooling and ventilation. Each wheel cover was manufactured from two layers of carbon fibre to allow a net gain in efficiency with regards to rolling resistance and drag reduction when considering weight added by the wheel covers. The vortex generators and NACA duct were 3-D printed using ABS plastic. The wheel covers and NACA duct were applied to the car for the World Solar Challenge while only the wheel covers were applied for the Sasol Solar Challenge. The vortex generators were not applied due to the efficiency gain from the application being uncertain at the time of the race. A gain in aerodynamic efficiency with the addition of wheel covers to a front wheel was shown through CFD testing. The drag was reduced by approximately 0.5 Newtons (5 %) relating to translational forces and 0.02 Newtons per meter (44 %) percent with regards to rotational forces. The addition of vortex generators resulted in a drag reduction ranging from approximately zero to three percent when considering straight airflow and crosswinds respectively.