Sam Livingstone, senior tutor in vehicle design at the Royal College of Art recently noted, ‘We are seeing a return to the prominence of aerodynamics, and the aerodynamic look, to both deliver and visually convey efficiency.”
This was the initiative behind Aero-Ace, a collaborative design project, just completed with Bentley - the objective being to explore a new aerodynamic design direction for the luxury marque. Second year RCA students were asked to identify a new vehicle direction for Bentley that would appeal to the ecologically conscious consumer.
Aided by specialist EXA evaluation software PowerFlow, their two-dimensional design proposals for a conceptual coupé needed to embrace aerodynamics in order to both reduce energy consumption and form part of a future Bentley design aesthetic.
The software simulates the aerodynamics of design at a digital model stage. The advantage being that it enables two-dimensional models to be accurately tested for their aerodynamic performance without having to make an actual real-life car.
The 18 participating students came up with very different proposals, with aero performance results ranging from CD 0.167 to 0.35. Livingstone notes: ‘There are no two that are thematically similar despite all being large Bentley coupés.’ The degree to which aerodynamics plays a role depends on the marque, although Livingstone has noticed a growing trend in considering aero performance at the early stages of design.
Exacting customers now expect their cars to have unwavering stability in all conditions, offer refined driving and the sort of speeds that 20 or so years ago would have applied only to purist sports cars. ‘So aerodynamics in car design is unarguably more important than ever. However, some companies still consider aerodynamics only at the end of a programme where they merely tweak details,’ says Livingstone.
The winner will be announced on 5 February and will spend six months working at Bentley.