Each year the University of Canterbury Motorsport (UCM) team in New Zealand pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved in racing; in 2016 they overcame their greatest challenge to date. After three years (2013-2015) of competing in the Australasian Formula SAE competition with an internal combustion engine vehicle , the team decided in 2016 to design and build New Zealand’s very first four-wheel drive (4WD) electric vehicle for the competition. The results were remarkable: UCM made history by becoming the first team with an electric vehicle to win a dynamic event at the Australasian Formula SAE competition.
For the second year in a row UCM won the Australasian skid-pad event, a result largely attributable to the successful design of the suspension and aerodynamic components, both of which would not have been possible without extensive use of ANSYS simulations. UCM’s 2016 car, UCM16, featured front and rear wings that increased the downforce produced by the car, allowing for faster cornering and reduced lap times. The UCM16 aerodynamics package was designed by pairing extensive ANSYS Fluent simulations with wind tunnel validation and on-track test analysis, with custom designed pressured tapped wings. ANSYS modeling allowed the aerodynamics team to investigate hundreds of different set-ups and variables during the design process, something that would be impossible to accomplish with wind tunnel and on-track testing alone. The design of the aerodynamics package started from square one, with 2-D modeling enabling the aerodynamics team to determine optimal aerofoil profiles, angles of attack and slot gaps for both the front and rear wings.
This was followed by 3-D modeling of the front and rear wings to investigate the downforce and drag results of the different wing and endplate configurations. Finally, full car simulations were performed to investigate the integration of aerodynamic components as well as the aerodynamic influence of the chassis, wheels, helmet and headrest.
The key simulations for the aerodynamics package — and UCM’s biggest achievement using ANSYS Fluent — were performed in a rotating boundary domain to simulate UCM16 traveling through a corner. This occurred under various conditions including varying air velocities and degrees of roll of the vehicle. The rotating boundary domain helped the team to determine the performance of the aerodynamics package in conditions where downforce is actually required. It allowed us to map the center of pressure migration through a range of dynamic events and understand how that migration affected the handling characteristics and behavior of the car. The aim was to minimize the center of pressure migration to make the car’s handling more predictable when driving around a corner and experiencing roll and pitch.
In 2017, the UCM team will develop their 4WD electric vehicle concept, building on the success of 2016 to produce a polished, competition winning car. For more information and to keep up to date with everything the UCM team is doing, check us out on Facebook and Instagram or visit our website.