CFD analysis of air flow interactions in vehicle platoons

Rajamani, G 2006, CFD analysis of air flow interactions in vehicle platoons, Masters by Research, Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title CFD analysis of air flow interactions in vehicle platoons
Author(s) Rajamani, G
Year 2006
Abstract The increasing use of Intelligent Transport System (ITS) can enable very close vehicle spacings which generally results in a net drag reduction for the resulting convoys. The majority of vehicle development has, to date, been for vehicles in isolation, thus the study of interaction effects is becoming increasingly important. The main objective of this research is to investigate the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for understanding convoy aerodynamics and to further the understanding of airflow interaction between vehicles via CFD. In this study, time-averaged characteristics of a simplified, generic passenger vehicle, called the Ahmed car model, after Ahmed (1984) is investigated computationally using the available commercial CFD code, Fluent version 6.1.22. Three different platoon combinations were analysed for the current study which includes a two, three and six model platoons for various rear end configurations of the Ahmed model geometry. Experiments were conducted in RMIT University Industrial Wind Tunnel for analysing the effects of drafting on drag coefficients using two different scales of Ahmed car models. This is an extension to the previous study performed on two 100% scales of Ahmed models (Vino and Watkins, 2004) and the results for both the current and previous experiments were compared using CFD. The CFD proved to be a useful technique since its results compared reasonably well for both the current and the previous experiments on drafting, using Ahmed models of identical (30°) rear slant configurations. However, near critical rear slant angles (~30°) for isolated vehicles some discrepancies were noted. The reasonable validation of experimental results enabled the study to be extended further computationally using CFD, to analyse the effects of inter-vehicle spacing on a platoon of 3 and 6 models for various rear end configurations (between 0° and 40°), in an attempt to provide useful information on vehicle-wake interaction for the Future Generation Intelligent Transport System (FGITS). Critical gaps were identified via CFD for the case of a two, three and six model platoons and the simulations clearly exposed the reasons for these critical gaps. At extremely close proximity, the models experienced more pressure recovery at their rear vertical base, which reduced the drag coefficient. Surprisingly, at some of the close vehicle spacings, the drag coefficients reached values that were higher than that of a vehicle in isolation. This was found due to the high momentum flow impingement to the fore body of the model and was similar to results found in physical experiments. Thus the current CFD analysis revealed that rear slant angle of the model and the inter-vehicle spacing greatly influences the wake structures and ultimately the vehicles aerodynamic drag coefficients in platoons. Even though the current CFD model (Realizable k-B turbulence model) predicted the basic flow structures such as the C-pillar vortices from the rear slant and 2D horse shoe vortices in the model's vertical rear base, the separation bubble on the rear slant that supplies energy to the strong C-pillar vortices was not replicated accurately, which is evidenced from the flow structure analysis. Hence it is recommended for further work, that the study should be extended using the Reynold's stress models or the Large Eddy Simulation (LES) turbulence models for flow structure observation and analysing vortex interactions between the models.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
Keyword(s) Motor vehicles
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