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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Drag reduction of cube-van through boundary-layer control: wind tunnel experiments and prototype road tests St Hill, Simon


Due to increasing fuel cost and emphasis on energy conservation as well as pollution control, there has been considerable interest in improving propulsive efficiency of road vehicles. Reduction in aerodynamic resistance is one aspect of it. Although aerodynamically contoured automobiles has become a standard design practice. Trucks have changed little over the past three decades. The thesis presents results of an organized and extensive wind tunnel test-program, complemented by full-scale road tests, aimed at assessing the effectiveness of two boundary-layer control procedures for reduction of the pressure drag of a cube-van. Wind tunnel results, obtained using 1/6th scale models, at a subcritical Reynolds number of 105, suggest that both the Moving Surface Boundary-layer Control (MSBC) as well as the tripping of the boundary-layer using fences reduce the pressure drag coefficient. Although both the concepts are promising, application of the entirely passive fence procedure appears more attractive from an economic consideration as well as the ease of implementation. The road tests with a full-size cube-van substantiated the trends indicated by the fence data although the actual drag reduction observed was lower (yet quite significant, = 16.6%) than that predicted by the wind tunnel tests. This may be attributed to a wide variety of factors including the differences in the geometry (models; fences and their orientation),operating conditions (Reynolds number; yaw; wind variations in magnitude and direction; turbulence; road boundary-layer; road surface condition), and measurement errors. However, the objective of the study was to assess potential of the concepts which, indeed, is quite promising. Fuel consumption results also substantiated the drag reduction trend. As expected they depend on the gearing condition and hence no general expression applicable to all speed ranges is available. As anticipated the data show a rapid increase in the fuel consumption efficiency at the top end of the speed range. It is concluded that fences can lead to a significant improvement in drag reduction and fuel consumption when applied to flat-faced trucks if positioned correctly. They represent a more elegant, versatile, and cheaper alternative to the 'nose cones' and deflectors available in the market. It is recommended that further road tests should be conducted using both boundary-layer control devices.

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