Aerodynamics the leading factors in vehicle performance

Copyright 2005 Jason Bibb Aerodynamics is one of the leading factors in vehicle performance. Car racing has focused on this aspect ever since the 60s, when the first inverted wings were installed on formula cars. In time, the development of aerodynamic devices grew stronger, often borrowing ideas and solutions form the flight industry. By improving aerodynamics, engineers saw faster lap times and more driver control over the car, both at high and low speeds. The final element that contributes to improved handling and grip is the downforce - using the underbody of the vehicle to facilitate airflow and "stick" the car to the tarmac. Since the introduction of aerodynamics, automotive engineers used the distribution of downforce as the major decisive factor in car performance.

Because of aerodynamic advancements, some racing cars reach cornering speeds of 4 G (four times the acceleration of gravity). The same factors that apply to racing cars also stand true for street legal vehicles. The shape of the car, the airflow created by accessories and car parts, the effect of the rear wing spoiler or frontal spoilers - all these contribute to the aerodynamic level of the car. For improved downforce, you can try several solutions, such as installing a well calibrated rear wing or lowering your car's suspensions. History and trends in aerodynamic development. Modern cars are always tested from an aero dynamical point of view.

Wind tunnels are used on car prototypes to see what each segment of the car does to airflow, and other tools such as computational aerodynamics and aerodynamic design and optimization are employed in order to find the best airflow solutions. The concept of body streamlining appeared after Chevrolet-Chaparral implemented some groundbreaking airflow elements in their Can-Am cars. The rear axel of the car had a wing attached to two struts and the wing was adjustable at pit stops to tune the car for the best efficiency. The idea became very popular in a short while, and other aero dynamical improvements were soon to follow.

Lateral sealing skirts were later developed and formula racers ended up reaching speeds of 1.7 G. Lotus introduced the ground effect car - the bottom part of the vehicle was shaped in such a way that the volume of downforce provided was much greater than with previous models.

Today's cars, from a Ferrari F50 to a Smart, employ aerodynamics as an essential factor in their construction. Manufacturers focus on this aspect of car making - improved aerodynamics reduce fuel consumption, habitat noise and also provide the driver with more control and stability, thus improving vehicle safety. .

By: Jason Bibb

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