The Aesthetics of Low Drag Vehicles

Geoff Le Good, Chris Johnson, Brian Anthony Clough, Rob Lewis

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    2 Downloads (Pure)
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2011
    EventTO ZEV symposium: Highlighting the latest powertrain, vehicle and infomobility technologies - Turin, Italy
    Duration: 9 Jun 201110 Jun 2011


    ConferenceTO ZEV symposium: Highlighting the latest powertrain, vehicle and infomobility technologies

    Bibliographical note

    This is a conference paper presented by Geoff Le Good at ‘TO ZEV’ symposium "Highlighting the latest powertrain, vehicle and infomobility technologies" at the Politecnico di Torino, Turin Italy 9-10 June 2011.‘The Aesthetics of Low Drag Vehicles’ is also a journal article published in SAE International Journal of Engines, August 2011 4:2638-2658; doi:10.4271/2011-37-0016 (August 2011). Author's note: In this paper the authors have attempted to offer both Aerodynamicists and Designers an opportunity to appreciate the significant efforts which have been made in the past to offer streamlined (low drag) aerodynamic forms for passenger cars and to provide a useful foundation of references for further reading and research.
    The 1920s and 1930s were the era in the history of the motor car to date when there was significant experimentation with streamlined styles but published aerodynamic data is comparatively rare. For this research the authors have demonstrated how modern styling and CFD analysis software can be used together to provide a more detailed understanding of the aerodynamic characteristics of two 1930s designs. This involved creating digital wind tunnel models from period blueprints and photographs
    Then, as now, reduction in passenger car aerodynamic drag was achieved but the progress was limited initially by a public resistance to pure aerodynamic forms interpreted as automobile body styles. Later aerodynamic optimisation was a less radical process in which small changes were made to a given style based on the fashions of the day.
    Traditionally there has been a division between what the design department feels is right for the market and what aerodynamicists know is right for the efficiency and stability of the vehicle. But there is now a trend where the old demarcation lines are gradually being reduced. For the future the authors have suggested that the integration of the styling and aerodynamics departments offers advantages in operations and functional achievements and that revisions to education and training would be beneficial.
    The authors also suggest that overtly aerodynamic body styles may become desirable for their own sake as a means of illustrating ecological awareness. Since the new powertrain technologies will be hidden from view, a streamlined exterior style would provide a perceived ‘distance’ from conventional vehicles as well as a functional contributor to efficiency.
    There is likely to be an increasingly significant role for the Designer to offer in helping to provide aesthetically pleasing aerodynamic forms or indeed incorporating aerodynamically preferred surfaces within a given style. If there is a sufficient knowledge base where Designers, Aerodynamicists and Packaging Engineers work together from the initial concept stage, then there is a very high degree of probability that an aesthetically pleasing aero efficient design can be achieved and that new materials and manufacturing technologies may provide for an even greater range of styling solutions.
    In summary this initial study may lead to future research which will explore the development of the knowledge base mentioned in the previous paragraph and its implementation in the design of future concepts.


    • Aerodynamics
    • passenger vehicles
    • automobiles

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