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Novel Design of Low Consumption Vehicles

Novel Design of Low Consumption Vehicles

Researchers from Polytechnic University of Turin reported the design process of the monocoque for a three-wheeler hydrogen prototype

Lightweight design and high mechanical performance are some of the major steps to fuel efficiency in the automotive sector. Carbon fiber is a potential option to achieve an efficient balance between aerodynamic performance, mechanical properties, style, and mass. However, the widespread use of carbon fiber in the automotive sector is mainly restricted due to factors such as cost of production and the recyclability. Now, a team of researchers from Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Polytechnic University of Turin, proposed the design and manufacturing of a three-wheeler prototype.

The team developed IDRAkronos – a prototype with three wheels, two front steering wheels, and one rear wheel powered by a brushed electric motor, supplied by a hydrogen fuel cell. Some of the significant highlights of IDRAkronos’ layout include the fuel cell with the hydrogen tank at the end of the car and the location of the rear wheel behind the firewall. According to the researchers, the new approach offers stiffer rear assembly and a shorter wheelbase. The team highlighted the main steps of the Computer Aided Design (CAD) that creates the general shape, the aerodynamic requirements, and finally the Finite Element Method (FEM) simulations and optimization process to minimize the mass of the vehicle. The carbon fiber monocoque-based design offers minimal mass of 39 Kg and maintains structural resistance. This lightweight design contributed to obtaining a total vehicle mass of just 39 kg. The main body had a mass of 7.5 kg, a tail mass of 1.2 kg, while the front-end mass was 2.5 kg.

The powertrain’s efficiency can be enhanced by the resultant change in position with improvement in the ventilation of the fuel cell. A higher design freedom for the external shape of the vehicle’s tail is also one of the key points of the layout. IDRAkronos has a reduced wheelbase that contributes to reduce the frontal area of the car and the volume of the wheel arches. Therefore, the length of the structural part of the car was shortened and its aerodynamic resistance was improved. According to the researchers, the design methodology and insights can facilitate the development of similar low consumption vehicles. IDRAkronos will debut at the Shell Eco-marathon competition that will be held in North, Central, and South America on April 3-6, 2019 at Sonoma Raceway. The research was published in the journal MDPI Energies on March 29, 2019.