Normally we wouldn’t think that pushing yourself through thin air would pose any difficulty to anyone, but force that air upon yourself at speeds of over 100km/h and you would barely be able to stand straight.
See the faster you go the denser the air becomes making it harder and harder for you to push through.
The faster you go the more power you need just to part the air.
This is why fast cars often are shape like sleek bullets or knifes as their sharp ends and slender bodies allow the cars to pierce through the air with ease.
Their bodies cause low aerodynamic drag, thus requiring less power to move at speed as compared to an upright brick wall.
Honed through years of wind tunnel testing and experimentations, the sleek shapes that is applied onto sports cars has also become the defining quality of what makes them “fast” to the casual observer.
To cut down on aerodynamic drag, car designers have to reduce the car’s front footprint, which is why the aeroplane-wing shaped Nuna solar powered car is amongst the most aerodynamic creations in the world.
|The Nuna Solar powered car has very little surface area on the front, making it easier to slice through the air.|
However when it comes to sports cars, aerodynamic drag can be beneficial.
For its sleek shape and myriad of wings, the Formula One car is far from the most aerodynamic of cars.
Instead a typical Formula One car is less aerodynamic than a Hummer H2 SUV, this is because the wings on the Formula One car uses the air pressure from interrupting airflow over it to generate downforce, forcing the car down onto the road surface and thus increasing grip.
|Pictured: Less aerodynamic than a fat cow on rollerskates.|
Sports car designers recognise the need for aerodynamic wings to influence airflow to increase grip, yet are cautious not to cause aerodynamic drag which can severely reduce the car’s performance.
Some carmakers has come up with ingenious solutions such as the McLaren MP4-12C which tucks away its wing a speed and only raises it when the brakes are applied to increase drag, which slows down the car and generates downforce to stabilise itself under braking.
|If you spot the tail, better jam the brakes.|
Pagani’s new Huayra goes one step further by having four individual wings each attached to the four corners of the car.
|Tiny flaps on the nose and tails keeps the Huayra stuck to the road.|
These wings work with the information fed from the steering wheel, allowing it to generate downforce for each corner of the car, thus improving grip and stability in corners.
However the concept of active aerodynamics shown on the MP4-12C and Huayra is just the start of what is possible with electronically controlled wings.
Take the imaginative BMW Lovos concept designed by a Pforzheim University graduate, which features 260 photovoltaic solar cells which not only generates electricity to power it, but also acts as airbrakes to help slow the car down.
|Lovos stops the air and the crowds as well|
With the world focusing their attention on fuel efficiency, the application of intelligent aerodynamic designs could hold the key to retaining our need for speed and environmental concerns.
The engineering challenge to make air work with the car is a substantial one and one which designers would have to take heed of.
*The closing date for the submission of the Secondary School Category of the New Straits Times – Peugeot Design Competition 2012/2013 is this Wednesday, March 13.
Participants are required to mail or hand-in their entries to the address below before the deadline:
New Straits Times - Cars, Bikes & Trucks
1st Floor, Balai Berita (Old Wing)
31, Jalan Riong
59100 Kuala Lumpur
As for the finalists of the University and College Students category, the deadline for submitting the required full 1/5 scale model and presentation panels is April 3.