Aerodynamics are a fundamental factor influencing the speed and efficiency of cars, which is why manufacturers have invested significant research into making them as slippery as possible. There’s still more that can be done, of course, and one particularly intriguing drag-reduction method is being touted by Porsche.
Porsche is working with researchers at the University of Stuttgart to investigate whether intentionally making a car vibrate can improve its aerodynamics, and it looks like a potentially big stride forward that could open up the door to a revolution in car design freedom.
Professor Andreas Wagner, Holder of the Chair of Automotive Engineering at the University of Stuttgart announced: “We are examining whether it is possible to reduce the Cd value at certain points in the car body by systematically introducing vibrations.” This method includes installing speakers around the car which emit a pulse to disrupt the flow around the sides of the car, which helps decrease the drag coefficient.
Wagner says the use of vibrations to reduce drag has been very successful in early tests. When tested on an SUV, he reports its drag coefficient was reduced by an impressive seven percent. It still might be a while before it’s used on production cars though – according to Wagner there are many issues still to be ironed out, “We have to make sure, for example, that passengers don’t hear any buzzing or humming.”
In the past, the pursuit of aerodynamic perfection has meant the focus has largely been on a car’s shape to reduce drag. That’s why since the 1980s, curvier looks have been popular, while boxy proportions have fallen by the wayside.
Porsche says that the use of vibrations to improve aerodynamics has the potential to give back some of the lost design freedom, as a car may be less bound by its shape than it is now. Combined with other innovations such as active aero, which use movable body parts to manipulate the air depending on whether a car needs more or less downforce or drag at a given time, it could mean that future EVs could become more interesting to look at but even more efficient.