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University of Leicester contributes to creation of new electric sports car

Engineers from the University of Leicester recently helped in the development of a new, electric sports car project - HIPERCAR. 

A team from the University’s Advanced Structural Dynamics Evaluation Centre (ASDEC) has been closely involved with the project. Based at MIRA Technology Park, ASDEC is an autonomous testing facility within the University of Leicester set up to provide the University’s expertise available to industry.

ASDEC is the UK’s first commercial 3D vibration consultancy and modal analysis centre based upon advanced, non-contact laser Doppler vibrometry measurements.

Martin Cockrill, technical specialist at ASDEC, said: ‘The key to modern vehicle development at every level is computer simulation. It is the only way to get the maximum performance out of structures to achieve the requirements of body stiffness for exceptional vehicle dynamics whilst minimising weight and ensuring legislative safety requirements are met.’

‘However, in that respect, it can only ever be a simulation of real world performance. To make sure that the simulation predicts as accurately as possible there needs to be a correlation step to fine tune the model to physical materials and actual production processes’ continued Cockrill.

Standing for 'High Performance Carbon Reduction', the project is slated for full release in 2019 and production by Ariel Motor Company in 2020 alongside the Atom, Nomad and Ace. 

As with other Ariel Motor Company vehicles the focus of HIPERCAR is on extreme performance, agility and usability, now coupled with zero and ultra-low emissions. To be available in four wheel drive and two wheel drive variants HIPERCAR will offer enhanced performance utilising cutting edge, UK developed technology and will be built in Somerset, England by Ariel Motor Company. 

HIPERCAR, with a model name yet to be decided, is not just an Ariel Motor Company production car but also a conduit for UK developed technology to make its way into other niche, medium volume and ultimately high volume production products.  

The car is a Series Hybrid EV (Electric Vehicle) featuring a 750 Volt, 42 kWh or 56kWh, lithium-ion, cooled and heated battery pack which is charged, when required, by a 35kW microturbine range extender, negating any range anxiety issues and making the vehicle independent of any charging infrastructure.  

Cockrill stressed that simulation is imperative to the kind of technological development demonstrated in the HIPERCAR project as it significantly reduces product development cycles and allows new validation and design processes not possible with physical development and prototyping.

‘The step of correlating structures to their digital twin is where ASDEC facility at the University of Leicester excels.  We have taken what is normally a very laborious slow process and brought it into the twenty-first century.  Speeding up through automation, making a step change in data resolution to get maximum knowledge from a single test and at the same time ensuring that even the lightest of structures remains unchanged and uninfluenced by the testing process’ said Cockrill.

Cockrill continued: ‘At ASDEC, we have utilised the latest in laser based non-contact vibration sensors to avoid any requirement to attach anything to the surface. Keeping the response as pure as possible. We have automated the process by mounting these laser systems on a robotic arm allowing them to be positioned around the structure with pinpoint accuracy. This allows testing to continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It also means that measurement density can be tuned to ideal requirements not balanced against technician stamina.  Using data fed directly from the digital twin of the part under test.’

‘ASDEC have deployed these tools to support Ariel Motor Company with project HIPERCAR. Ensuring maximum knowledge is obtained from the prototypes, to support the body design, simulation and development process’ Cockrill concluded.

Simon Saunders from Ariel Motor Company said: ‘Like other Ariels we want HIPERCAR to represent excellent value for money for the remarkable performance on offer.  It will be an expensive car because of the technology involved but when compared to £1m+ supercars, which it will outperform, it’s going to represent excellent value for money. This is the first true electric supercar that will cross continents, drive to town and lap a race track.'

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