The 2017 Land Rover Discovery is being hailed for its sleek design and what’s under the hood, but its major accomplishments—shedding 1,000 pounds and becoming more aerodynamic—wouldn’t have been possible without serious horsepower in the form of virtual testing and simulation.
The latest SUV model was the result of over 1,000 simulations, accounting for 12 million hours of CPU time, run over the course of the vehicle’s development. The stepped up simulation effort is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s strategic vision to leverage virtual engineering and simulation to improve the quality, cost targets and time to market for all of its vehicle programs, according to Mark Stanton, vehicle engineering director for the firm and executive, champion of virtual engineering.
“We are trying to left shift engineering,” said Stanton. “Virtual engineering is a key part so we can validate that we’ve met all the requirements for our programs far earlier in the process.” Target date for the left shift vision: Having 100% of requirements be validated through simulation by 2020, accelerating Jaguar Land Rover’s ability to deliver product on time and at lower cost while ultimately delivering a better car to its customers.
The recently released Discovery model is one of the first to undergo a full program of virtual testing prior to any sort of physical testing process. Leveraging its 17-year partnership with simulation software maker Exa Corp., the automaker conducted extensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) testing in the early stages with PowerFLOW, which led to key adjustments to enable a more aerodynamic design. The team performed over 1,000 simulations, accounting for about 12 million hours of CPU time over the course of development. As a result of the virtual testing effort, Land Rover was able to reduce drag co-efficient by 0.07 from the previous generation Discovery to 0.33Cd on the new model.
Part of the improved aerodynamics is accomplished through a new rear spoiler design, which was optimized using the Exa technology. Via simulation, the Land Rover team changed up the spoiler to have a slotted design, which served two purposes: It minimizes the amount of dirt that accumulates on the back of the vehicle when driving through mud or other rough conditions, while still striking the right balance in terms of air flow.
Thanks to the significant strides Land Rover has made on this and other simulation efforts, the company is no longer testing certain attributes physically, including aerodynamics, cooling airflows and brake systems, according to Ales Alajbegovic, vice president, Ground Transportation Applications at Exa. By doing so, Land Rover greatly reduces the costs related to building physical prototypes and doing physical measurements, he says, including cutting back reliance on costly wind tunnels.
Long term, Land Rover’s vision is to get to a point where there are zero prototypes and the design teams go straight from simulation to a production vehicle, Stanton explained. Last year, the company devoted 36 million hours of CPU time to Exa simulation—the equivalent of 7,000 wind tunnel tests. The ability to visualize the air flow around the vehicle also enables non-aerodynamics experts, including management, to interact and understand what is physically going on, enabling them to direct changes that will maximize performance, he says.
“If you can test your design ideas way before any physical prototype is built, you end up with better solutions and can significantly reduce the number of failures and late-stage design failures,”Alajbegovic said.
Watch this video to hear Jaguar Land Rover’s Mark Stanton talk about virtual engineering and simulation.