Supercomputing Propels Record-Setting Supercar

By Tiffany Trader

September 2, 2014

Engineering students from Ohio State University have designed another record-setting vehicle, thanks in large part to the advanced computing resources of the Ohio Supercomputer Center.

Ohio State’s Venturi Buckeye Bullet team set an international land speed record last week at the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah. In a new competition category, the electric vehicle reached an average two-way speed of 212.615 miles per hour, capturing a new record (pending certification from the governing body).

The streamliner – the Venturi Buckeye Bullet 3, aka VBB-3 – was required to make two runs, one in each direction, to be considered for the international record. Although the record is officially determined by averaging the speed of the two runs in the middle of the eight mile course, the fastest measured speed for the so-called flying mile was 270 miles per hour.

The electric racecar was designed and built by undergraduate and graduate students at the Center for Automotive Research at The Ohio State University (OSU CAR) in partnership with Monaco-based electric car specialists Venturi Automobiles. Venturi provided the car’s two custom electric motors, while its two megawatts of lithium ion batteries were produced by US company A123 Systems.

Being able to evaluate a racecar’s aerodynamic properties is essential to creating a winning vehicle. In this case, student engineers carried out a pressure contour simulation of the racecar at 300mph. They also studied how the body shape could be modified to achieve minimum drag without undermining stability.

“At these high speeds, aerodynamics play a crucial role in vehicle and driver safety, as well as being one of the critical factors that dictate the peak performance of the vehicle,” said Dr. Giorgio Rizzoni, director of OSU CAR in a 2013 report. “From the start of the design process, the aerodynamics of each proposed body shape for the VBB3 was evaluated in Fluent and OpenFOAM using the computational resources available at the Ohio Supercomputer Center.”

One component that is crucial to stability at high-speed is the vertical tail. The final version of this part was the result of extensive simulations and numerous design iterations. As important as it is to hone all of the components, the entire vehicle must also be simulated as one unit to optimize performance and safety. Some of these solutions involved more than 42 million cells, according to the blog from Ohio Tech Communications Director Jamie Abel.

“Since it’s a new car with a new body, it has been interesting to look at the current aero, and to identify areas of improvement,” reported graduate student Casie Clark. “For example, I ran CFD jobs aimed at designing a wind deflector to deflect air around the tires, instead of allowing a large air mass inside the wheel wells, which creates substantial drag.”

The team’s inaugural run with the newly-minted car faced some challenges due to inclement weather, but team leader David Cooke wasn’t shaken. “We can’t wait to get back on the track and continue the journey to 400 miles per hour with an electric vehicle,” he shared.

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