Improving aerodynamics is perhaps the best possible way to spend man-hours on the design of a car. New college students tend not to be expert aerodynamicists, and there are lots of opportunities for improvements. Therefore, the team is currently looking for graduate students and skilled undergraduate students who are interested in working on the fascinating and fulfilling role of designing a solar car aero body. Contact us at contactsolarcar@lists.stanford.edu if you are interested in joining our project.

These days the Stanford team uses Pro-Engineer to generate the surfaces representing the car, and Fluent to do the CFD analysis to compare designs. Spending time in wind tunnels to validate CFD simulations is extremely important for the success of the car, so the team is actively searching for available wind tunnel facilities in he US. There a very limited number of wind tunnels in the world that can accommodate full size cars and even fewer that feature a moving road surface. If any friends of Stanford can help us reserve time in one of the automotive wind tunnels in the US we would be very grateful. Please send us a message at contactsolarcar@lists.stanford.edu if you think you can help. Our team hopes to have a strong partnership with Stanford faculty, alumni, and other professionals as we begin the design process for our upcoming car.

Doing aerodynamics work doesn’t cost anything up front – just someone’s time. That means that dollar for dollar, it’s the cheapest way to improve a car. As speeds increase, the aerodynamic loss factor dominates. In fact, aerodynamics can account for 70% of a car’s losses. Once you get past around 1500 watts of solar output, it’s far more worth your time and effort to improve the body shape than it is anything else on the vehicle.

Figuring out how to fit all of the bits of a car that hasn’t yet been designed, to fit a person you haven’t met yet, to meet rules specifications that aren’t finalized yet is a daunting challenge. Hopefully in the coming cycle we will find someone really talented in this field to truly elevate our next car up to a higher level. Stay tuned to updates on our blog or join our team to learn more. We have one or two secret ideas for improving the aerodynamic efficiency of our car that could revolutionize solar car racing.

Flow Visualization on Xenith, 2009-2011

Flow Visualization on Luminos, 2012-2013

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