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Automotive Design and Engineering Project - Redesign Part of a Car

  1. Jun 26, 2014 #1
    Hi Physics Forums!

    I've been browsing these forums for a while now and not actually joining in..
    Now I'd like to ask for your help!

    I'm about to enter into my final year of my degree in Automotive Design and Engineering and need a project. I need to re-design a part of a car and engineer it to be improved in some 'innovative' way... I've had several ideas, but all seem to lead to a dead end.

    If you've ever been driving and thought "Why hasn't this been done?" or "I'm sure this could have been designed better..." I'd love to hear about it!

    Bearing in mind, also, that I'll to build a prototype of it.. so nothing ridiculously complicated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 26, 2014 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to the PF.

    It's your project, so you really should be the one to come up with the idea. What have you thought of so far?

    There have been a lot of innovations recently in car design. Things like crash avoidance, backup safety, vanishing car doors (Google that one -- pretty neat), and new uses of heads-up displays (HUDs). Check out this PF thread on a particularly interesting use of a HUD:


  4. Jun 27, 2014 #3
    My original route I wanted to go down was a training steering wheel for formula 1 that fed back information that would allow the driver to make their laps more consistent... this got hideously complicated for a university project though, so at least 75% of it would have had to be theoretical and I need to be able to present a working prototype by the end of the year...

    Another idea was a wing-mirror that has the ability to fold almost completely flat whilst still maintaining a presentable appearance... Not a terribly useful project, but it would allow for some interesting mechanics that would go down well if I did a good job of it, but would be a disaster if it didn't work/worked badly..

    That HUD is pretty neat - my course leans more towards mechanical body and trim so my design would require something that would reflect this

  5. Jun 27, 2014 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    Ah, interesting. I can give you a hint about a mechanical pickup truck idea that I had a while back -- I almost patented it, but decided it would be too hard to make money on. Think about a pickup's tailgate. It's not very aerodynamic in its closed position, right? And it's a bit dorky and dangerous to drive around with it in the down position to improve aerodynamics and gas mileage. Can you think of something else that you could do with a mechanically-modified tailgate that would let you drive around with a better aerodynamic configuration? :smile:
  6. Jun 29, 2014 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

  7. Jul 4, 2014 #6
    Hi Berkeman,

    Thanks for your response!

    That certainly is an interesting idea - wonder why something hasn't been done about this... I guess the simple (but not very visually appealing) option is just to put a cover over it. I'm guessing you had a better idea on how to achieve this though?

    I'm wondering how I could do this as a project though without having my own pickup! :(

    EDIT: Unless you mean just allowing it to open the other way?
  8. Jul 4, 2014 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    Yes to your edit. I pictured folding it forward into the bed of the truck. It requires a different mechanism to be able to lock it forward or upright, as well as opening to the rear for normal loading.

    Maybe you could make a scale model?
  9. Jul 4, 2014 #8
    A scale model is possible I guess!

    How is this not already a thing? I'm thinking there must be a reason. Have done some searching and found nothing - seems like such an obvious feature!

    Thanks for the tip!
  10. Jul 4, 2014 #9
    Just did a bit more searching and found a few articles looking into tailgate aerodynamics. I was interested to discover that a lot of people believe that having the tailgate up is more efficient than having it down... Will look into further
  11. Jul 5, 2014 #10


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    Science Advisor

    Mythbusters would disagree. Fuel economy is better with tailgate up than down. Best economy is often when using a 50% strap mesh for the tailgate, it breaks the eddy.

    The aim is to reduce the length of the circulating eddy behind the cab, which reduces it's height, and so reduces the effective vehicle profile. Installing a wall across the tray of a PU, truck or railcar, reduces fuel consumption. Extending the sides and the roof of a PU backwards reduces fuel cost by keeping the eddy inside the vehicle profile.

    If I painted my shiny car with epoxy, then threw white grit on it, my car would not show dents and would scratch anything that ran into it in the car park. How could I improve fuel efficiency, while keeping the weight down, and still allowing the gravel to support an economic shallow aerodynamic boundary layer.
    Lumpy paint? or maybe fish scales?
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