Automotive

Ariel Aero-P tests if ground effect fans can take off again

Ariel Aero-P tests if ground e...
Ariel is playing around with classic F1 tech on its latest prototype
Ariel is playing around with classic F1 tech on its latest prototype
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The ground effects have been developed using Computer Fluid Dynamics from a British firm
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The ground effects have been developed using Computer Fluid Dynamics from a British firm
The ground effects mean the Aero-P can be clean and free of wings
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The ground effects mean the Aero-P can be clean and free of wings
Ariel is playing around with classic F1 tech on its latest prototype
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Ariel is playing around with classic F1 tech on its latest prototype
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In spite of all the changes going on in the automotive world at the moment, one thing has largely remained constant. That constant is big wings, being used to stop cars with big performance from having big accidents by hugging them to the road as the speedo rises. But there is another way to generate downforce. Pioneered in the 1970s, ground effects became a fixture of Formula 1 before they were banned in 1982. Now they're back, stuck to the bottom of the Ariel Aero-P.

Although they're effective as speed increases, conventional wings and aero addenda can be an inefficient way to create downforce. In most daily driving situations, road cars aren't going fast enough to make use of their fixed wings, which just sit there and create extra drag. According to Ariel, adding a fixed wing to an Atom increases drag by up to 15 percent, significantly impacting fuel efficiency and top speed.

The ground effect system fitted to the Aero-P is a clever way to avoid those problems, offering up meaningful downforce without the associated drag from wings. A rubber skirt on the bottom of the tub works with two compact, high-speed fans to create a vacuum under the car, sucking it to the road. Aside from the skirting around the bottom of the car, the prototype is fitted with an extra battery and some unique ducting to make the system work.

Instead of only producing meaningful downforce at warp speed, ground effects suck the car to the road at any speed. Ariel was chasing "downforce when stationary" on the Aero-P, inspired by cars like the 1970 Chaparral 2J Sucker Car and 1978 Brabham BT46B Fan Car.

The ground effects have been developed using Computer Fluid Dynamics from a British firm
The ground effects have been developed using Computer Fluid Dynamics from a British firm

Because the fans can spin up quickly, Ariel says the ground effect can be turned on and off at will. That means drivers could have maximum downforce through a particularly tricky set of corners, before switching the fans off for a higher top speed down a long straight. It also means a car could be driven in its most efficient state on the highway, before turning into an aero-monster when the driver wants to sink the boot in.

"When the system is turned on the car visibly squats on the ground so you can see it working, which is pretty exciting," says Simon Saunders, Director of Ariel. "We're already making about three times the downforce as aerofoils, but this really is just the first step and a very early stage in what is a large and complex project to bring to a production reality, so we have a lot more work to do."

At the moment Ariel is adamant the Aero-P is just a prototype, with no view for production in the near future – which isn't surprising as the realities of public roads (think potholes, speed bumps and stone chips to name a few) might make it tough to create a viable ground effect system.

Source: Ariel

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6 comments
fb36
Only identical cars allowed in F1 :-)
VirtualGathis
Sounds to me like a problematic solution on common use roadways. There is a considerable amount of debris on roads. Aside from the asphalt itself which sheds gravel there are everything from nails to tree limbs on those roads. The latter could damage the skirting, the former would shred the fans if ingested.
I can see these rolling to a stop light and leaving piles of junk when the fan gets shut off as it falls down off the intake screen/filter.
If you want a better picture of the crazy mess on the roads visit a tire retreading facility and ask the guys to show you the jars of junk they pull out of those tires.
ei3io
Its true the regs will rule racing,, BUT when you consider the history of racing leading production tech, the fact that Dynamic Ground Effects its SOOO much better, much safer and MORE efficient than Passive Ground Effects,, the history will show that race regs will follow as production leads and then races their DGE cars for their enthusiasts.
Michael Wilson
I could see this being very beneficial on road cars during adverse weather conditions. Imagine a car going down rain slicked or icey roads with a setup like this generating 2000lbs of down force. The car would stay glued to the road and would be very safe through corners.
liui
Or make a vehicle with reversible fans; suction mode for road racing and blower mode with retractable rear rotor for hovercraft.
VincentBrennan
Remember this is basically a "track car" for people that can afford such a toy. Of course the skirts will wear. They are a replaceable part of any skirted ground effects sys passive or active like this one. I remember when the F1 cars had sliding teflon skirts in the side pods to create consistent down force as a race went on. The problem was when a car got "off line" and had to run through what most of call "the marbles" of rubber that come off tires they were then running into teflon marbles! They went from massive down force to ice like conditions instantly! Not good.
The proof that this system works is that the Chaparral and the Brabham were instantly banned. Not at the end of a racing year but instantly!
Anyway if you consider that this is a part time system I can think of many roads hr in Middle TN where this system could be used. It is unlikely thing but one concern I would have either on track or road is entering a corner at 20mph faster than it could ever be taken without ground effects and having a fan failure, be it electrical or mechanical. That is one of the biggest worries because other than that all the other things I have read here in comments and the article are minor issues. Yes the roads are rougher but that is a maintenance issue of replacing skirts more often and if you can afford this toy little things like replacing skirts is peanuts!
My main issue if I owned something like this car is that active ground effects was the "unfair advantage" That Mark Donahue wrote about. So if you are NOT racing there is little reason for it. The joy of driving or riding any vehicle at the limit is the driver doing his or her best and that is not made better (could be argued it is made worse ) by this system.