I guess that I have always been a bit of a petrolhead. I blame my father! He used to buy me books on motor sport so that he could read them – and he took me to motor races from the time that I was, literally, in short trousers. We saw all the greats of the late 50s and early 60s – Fangio, Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn (my childhood hero), Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, and many other now-legendary names from the past.
So I have naturally always been particularly interested in the potential for CFD to impact automotive design. At CHAM in the early days (I guess that I mean the 1970s) I don’t recall any work on automotive applications at all. Then in the 1980s we became involved in early work, mainly with the European auto companies, on external aerodynamics, and on engine in-cylinder processes. I recall in particular the application of a novel flame-front combustion model devised by Spalding to a new type of stratified-charge combustion-chamber design – and the application of a form of non-orthogonal body-fitted coordinates to modelling the flow around a full-scale idealised automobile body shape, and comparison with measurements made by the UK Motor Industry Research Association. However, despite this good early work, CHAM was, for various reasons, overtaken by other CFD groups in these two application areas.
Of course external aerodynamics and in-cylinder modelling have now become mainstream applications for CFD – with, for example, CFD now an essential part of the technology of any F1 or other motor-racing team, in order to design and fine-tune the critical and complex aerodynamics of present-day race cars. Which is great, and just as it should be.
However, these are “heavyweight” applications, usually utilising advanced general-purpose CFD software, and requiring specialist staff and often specialist, high-power computers. Such applications require considerable investment of time and resources by the user organisation – and therefore only make economic sense for critical problems where the potential payback is large.
What is more interesting to me is the penetration of CFD to other, more “routine” applications, made economically possible by “design-oriented” CFD such as FloEFD. So we now commonly see CFD contributing to the design of manifolds, valves, radiators, fuel injectors, catalytic converters, engine coolant systems, air-conditioning equipment, windscreen wipers, fuel cells, headlamps, and a whole host of other automotive components and processes.
Isn’t it great when work and play converge like this!