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Ford explains reason behind its designs

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As more car buyers are demanding fuel-efficient vehicles, the design changes suggested by aerodynamicists are being prioritized, an aerodynamicist at Ford, Rob Carstairs has said.

Carstairs said many Ford vehicles now have a slight flick in the tail lamps to stop the air flow from wrapping round the vehicle and causing added drag, an ingenious and mostly cost-free improvement in aerodynamics.

However, the work of Ford’s aerodynamicists has been greatly improved by advances in computing.

While wind tunnels are still a crucial part of aerodynamics testing, complex computer models and simulations now allow Carstairs and his colleagues to easily test design tweaks on Ford’s supercomputer cluster.

Rather than replacing wind tunnels, the computer models are an additional measure that can replicate hours of testing that would have been unimaginable only ten years ago.

“If we run tests for two days we can easily complete over 50,000 hours’ worth of simulations,” said Carstairs.

The look of a vehicle is also affected by the markets it is destined for. Although lower cars are more aerodynamic, the amount of clearance a car has varies by model, and is also heavily dependent on how flat the roads in a region are.

“In India for example, roads can be a bit bumpier so a vehicle might have to sit a bit higher,” Carstairs said, adding: “We have to consider all the different road conditions across the region.”

According to him, under the front bumper of the Everest Sport Utility Vehicle we added wings on the outer parts to direct airflow. It improved aerodynamics by five per cent.

Compromises like this are a key part of the design development process at Ford.

In the era of electrification, vehicles are already adopting more aerodynamic shapes. “On an electric car demands for power train cooling are reduced, so the grille openings can be smaller. “Things like that are quite handy for us aerodynamicists,” Carstairs disclosed.


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