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Experimental aerodynamic study of a car-type bluff body

Boris Conan

Jerome Anthoine

Philippe Planquart
Received: 6 February 2010 / Revised: 28 September 2010 / Accepted: 4 October 2010 / Published online: 16 October 2010
Springer-Verlag 2010
Abstract The Ahmed body is used as a reference model
for fundamental studies of car-type bluff body aerody-
namics, in particular focused on the inuence of the rear
slant angle on the drag coefcient. The objectives of the
present work are to obtain reliable drag coefcient com-
parable to the literature and to explain, based on the nature
of the ow, its variation when changing the rear slant angle
from 10 to 40. The drag coefcients measured in both an
open and a closed test sections differ by less than 0.5%
which proves the reliability and reproducibility of the
results. The sensitivity of the drag coefcient to some
parameters such as the model roughness or the oncoming
boundary layer and the lack of precise information on these
parameters in the literature could explain the difference
observed with the Ahmed drag coefcient data. The vari-
ous types of measurement techniques used in the study
underline their complementarity. The combination of par-
ticle image velocimetry and oil visualization provides a
deeper understanding of the ow behaviour around the
Ahmed body and a physical interpretation of the drag
coefcient evolution.
List of symbols
A Prontal area
Drag coefcient
Corrected drag coefcient
Measured drag coefcient
Drag force

Mean drag force
Ti Turbulence intensity
Reference velocity

Mean reference velocity
Dt Separation time
q Air density
Vortex detection criteria
Vorticity in z direction
1 Introduction
1.1 Context of the study
For ground vehicles, air resistance is responsible for more
than 75% of the total resistance to the motion at 100 km/h
(Hucho and Sovran 1998). First investigated as an impor-
tant aspect of vehicle performance, the two oil crisis
changed the issue of drag reduction studies to the reduction
in the consumption. Even after decades of investigations on
vehicle aerodynamics, drag reduction considerations are
still a concern as the major source of energy consumption.
An important number of papers are still published every
year on this subject using both experimental and numerical
Since full-scale wind tunnel tests are expensive and
allow poor exibility in terms of modication of parame-
ters, their use is limited to detailed analysis and nal per-
formance investigations. As an alternative, reduced-scale
wind tunnel tests are an interesting way to study global
shape modications on a vehicle. In the major part of these
B. Conan (&) J. Anthoine P. Planquart
von Karman Institute, Chaussee de Waterloo, 72,
1670 Rhode Saint Genese, Belgium
e-mail: boris.conan@vki.ac.be
J. Anthoine
e-mail: jerome.anthoine@vki.ac.be
P. Planquart
e-mail: philippe.planquart@vki.ac.be
1 3
Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284
DOI 10.1007/s00348-010-0992-z
experimental aerodynamic studies, the idea is to quantify
the improvement generated by a design evolution. The test
consists in comparing the drag of the basic conguration
with the modied version to nd the effect of the modi-
cation and in choosing the best option. Even if, in this case,
the relative value is most of the time enough to conclude
about a design evolution, the exact value is not to neglect
when comparing to numerical simulation or literature data.
The need for a common car shape model appears in order
to have a universal basis for investigations.
In 1984, Ahmed et al. (1984) proposed a very simple
and easily evolutive model with a cubical shape that no
longer really looks like a car but reproduces its global
behaviour: a large three-dimensional displacement in the
front, a relative uniform ow in the middle, and a large
structured wake at the rear. Thanks to this model and
previous work from Morel (Sovran et al. 1978), Ahmed
described the evolution of drag coefcient with the rear
slant angle. For a small angle between 0 and 20, the drag
coefcient (C
) is relatively constant, with a minimum at
around 12.5. At this angle, the wake is mainly constituted
by two longitudinal vortices. While increasing the rear
angle, the drag coefcient rises dramatically, up to 50% for
a rear slant angle of 30. This important drag increase is
due to a ow separation at the rear edge of the model that
reattaches on the slant, combined with pre-existing longi-
tudinal vortices. 30 is the so-called critical angle because
two ow behaviours can occur associated either with a
high drag (just described) or with a low drag coefcient.
The low drag coefcient is comparable to 0 rear angle.
The drag reduction, a 45% drop, is due to the fact that the
separation cannot reattach to the rear slant, that leads to a
global wake. Above 30, the drag coefcient does not
change signicantly and stays at a low level.
The Ahmed body is nowadays largely used as reference
model for both experimental and numerical investigations.
Thanks to its simplicity, the model is used to study the ow
unsteadiness or to implement new technologies like passive
or active control for drag reduction (Duell and George
1999; Bayraktar et al. 2001; Roumeas et al. 2009).
1.2 Objectives of the investigation
In the context of aerodynamic experiments, the present
work objective is to reproduce as closely as possible a
reference study in the VKI low-speed wind tunnel. The
study chosen is the investigation of the inuence of the rear
angle of an Ahmed body on the drag coefcient. The
experiment is done in the very same condition as Ahmed
(Fig. 1). Two types of test sections being available, another
contribution is the investigation of the test section depen-
dency; the original test is reproduced in both an open and
closed test section. Experiments are also dedicated to
complement the Ahmed body experimental database.
In addition to classical drag investigation, the study is
also devoted to the physical understanding of drag evolu-
tion by coupling oil visualization and PIV measurements to
explain the nature of the ow.
2 Experimental methodology
2.1 Model description
The model was built following Ahmed description (Ahmed
et al. 1984). Final dimensions are very close to the original
one. It was built so to allow an easy removal and
replacement of the rear part while keeping the model
attached to the balance, which avoid calibrating it before
each conguration.
The model is divided into three independent parts: the
frame, xed to the balance with four supports, the main
body, made up of the front nose and the middle part joined
together, and the rear part, attached to the middle part and
that can be replaced easily. Five different rear parts were
built with rear angles (h) equal to: 10, 20, 25, 30 and
40 (Fig. 2).
The complete model was fabricated at the VKI with
22 mm MDF (medium density breboard) boards. In order
to perform oil visualization and to decrease the surface
roughness, the wood was covered with black photo paper.
The main part is screwed to the rear part internally, and the
junction zone is moved away from the rear angle to min-
imize any interference in the rear part. Final global de-
nition, dimensions and uncertainties of the VKI model are
listed in Figs. 2, 3 and Table 1.
Fig. 1 The Ahmed body in the VKI L-1A open test section, the set-up
closely reproduces the original Ahmed conguration
1274 Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284
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2.2 VKI-L1 wind tunnel facility and set-up
All experimental studies are carried out in the VKI-L1 low-
speed wind tunnel. Two congurations are available, a free
jet test section of 3 m diameter (mentioned hereafter as
L-1A) and a closed test section of 2 m 9 3 m (L-1B).
These two congurations have a common return circuit
with a contraction ratio of 4 and are powered by a variable
speed DC motor of 580 kW driving two contra-rotative
fans of 4.2 m diameter. Experiments are performed in both
test sections with a velocity range from 13 to 60 m/s. The
turbulence intensity was measured at a level under 0.5%.
In order to be comparable to Ahmed experiment, the
wind tunnel set-up reproduces as closely as possible the
original conguration. For both wind tunnel congurations,
the model is installed on a 1.8 m wide 9 5 m long oor
very similar to the one used by Ahmed to simulate the
ground effect. To avoid separation, the leading edge of the
oor is rounded in an elliptical way (radius a and b in
Table 1) and the oor is exactly the same in the two test
sections. (Figs. 4, 5)
In the closed test section L-1B, a diffuser was built at the
end of the elevated oor to accelerate the ow below it and
control any separation at the leading edge due to blockage
under the oor (Fig. 5). The angle of the diffuser is set
experimentally to around 30 by visualizing the behaviour
of wool tuft at the leading edge at low speed.
For technical constraints, the model is not positioned at
the very same distance from the leading edge of the oor:
0.75 m instead of 1.33 m in Ahmed study. This can inu-
ence the inlet boundary layer. Giving the lack of information
about the original boundary layer thickness at the position of
the model, it was approximated supposing a turbulent
attached ow. On the other hand, measurements were
Fig. 2 Top and side view of the model and axis denition
Fig. 3 Front view and angle description
Table 1 Description of the VKI model
Dimension Description VKI model Uncertainty
L Total length 1,043 mm 2 mm
W Total width 390 mm 1 mm
H Total high 289 mm 1 mm
R Main front radius 100 mm 1 mm
D Support diameter 30 mm 1 mm
S Rear slant length 222 mm 1 mm
a Floor ellipse diam. 20 mm 1 mm
b Floor ellipse diam. 30 mm 1 mm
d Support distance 1 202 mm 1 mm
d Support distance 2 672 mm 1 mm
e Support spacing 297 mm 1 mm
h Support high 50 mm 1 mm
l Length to junction 660 mm 1 mm
r Sec. front radius 20 mm 1 mm
l Surface roughness 10 lm 1 lm
h Rear angle 10 to 40 0.1
u Model yaw angle 0.53 0.1
w Model pitch angle 0.13 0.1
Fig. 4 Set-up in the open test section L-1A
Fig. 5 Set-up in the closed test section L-1B with the elevated oor
Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284 1275
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carried out on the oor, without the model, but at its future
position. Table 2 summarizes the boundary layer thickness.
It can be concluded that the boundary layer thickness is less
than half the height of the model support. So, considering
turbulent attached ow on the oor, the consequence of
positioning differently the model is limited because the
boundary layer thickness for the VKI model is thinner. This
should not affect the measurement and ensure the wind
tunnel set-up similarity with the original experiment.
2.3 Drag coefcient measurements
The drag coefcient C
is dened as:

0:5 A q U
The frontal area A being constant, two values are
necessary to compute C
, the drag force F
and the
reference velocity U
To measure the drag, the model is attached to a balance.
In L-1B, the test section is equipped with an aerodynamic
six components balance used here only to acquire the drag.
In L-1A, the drag is obtained from a single component
balance. In both congurations, the model is connected to
the balance through its 4 supports passing within holes in
the oor. The reference velocity is the free-stream velocity,
upstream of the model, measured with a Pitot probe. The
Pitot is placed outside of the boundary layer of the oor, in
front of the model and enough on the side so that it is
outside of any perturbation created by the body.
For both test campaigns, the computation to obtain the
nal drag coefcient consists, for a given rear angle, of
doing several independent runs (the wind tunnel is stopped
between two runs) at a given reference velocity. Drag
coefcients are computed from a constant velocity after 10
s averaging.

0:5 q A

The nal averaged drag coefcient is computed from
different independent runs, at least two.
2.4 PIV measurements
PIV measurements are carried out in the closed test section
L-1B in the same conditions as the drag measurements but,
for practical reasons, at a reference velocity of 13 m/s.
Some developments were needed to be able to install the
laser, to have a proper seeding and to get the test section
L-1B dark. To achieve the objective of having additional
information on the rear part in the symmetry plane, the
laser is enlighting the model from the roof of the test
section. The optical bench, placed in the continuation of
the Mini-Yag laser, is composed of a spherical lens of
2.4 m focal distance to focus the beam on the model, a
cylindrical lens to create the laser sheet and a prism to
reect the laser down to the rear part of the model (Fig. 6).
To avoid perturbation upstream the model, the best
option achieved for the seeding is to ll the complete wind
tunnel with smoke from a rake downstream the model.
After a while, the wind tunnel is full of smoke that ensures
an homogeneous seeding. Giving the high distance from
the laser to the model and the relative low power of the
laser, the laser sheet is concentrated in a small area.
Therefore, the area of interest is divided into four different
planes that overlap. For each of these planes, the image
recording is performed with a two photo sensor PCO
camera equipped with 50 mm CANON lens with a pixel
denition of 1,280 9 864. It is positioned outside the test
section on the side. Final pictures are 260 mm 9 175 mm.
Laser and camera are externally synchronized, the sepa-
ration time Dt is optimized to have a displacement of about
8 pixels in the free ow (Table 3).
Table 2 Boundary layer thickness: measurement in VKI set-up
compared to an estimation from Ahmed description
Distance VKI Ahmed
0.75 m 1.33 m
40 m/s 15.5 mm 24.1 mm
60 m/s 14.31 mm 22.2 mm
Fig. 6 PIV set-up in L-1B and
decomposition of the area of
interest in four overlapping
1276 Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284
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At each position, a series of 1,000 image pairs are taken,
which has been proved to be sufcient to have a repre-
sentative average.
Even if precautions are taken to improve the darkness
and the quality of the background, a pre-processing is
applied to original images. It consists in calculating the
mean value of the 1,000 images and subtracting it from all
the images. This removes a constant background and a
possible reection.
After improving the image quality, the VKI WIDIM
processing algorithm (Scarano 2002) is applied. This
algorithm is based on an improved cross-correlation
method applied in several steps where interrogation areas
are distorted and displaced. Sub-pixel interpretation is used
as well in this post-processing. Inlet post-processing
parameters are set like described in Table 4. Statistical
quantities are computed from the average of the 1,000
image pairs. The turbulent kinetic energy is dened as
TKE 0:5


. Instantaneous images are also ana-
lysed in terms of vorticity x
and vortex detection using the
criteria from: Jeong and Hussain (1995); Jiang et al.
(2004); Depardon et al. (2005); Raffel et al. (2007).
Local near-wall PIV data are post-processed with an
improved adaptative method (Theunissen et al. 2007)
where windows are adapted to the surface. This allows to
describe more details very next to the wall.
3 Inuence of the rear angle on drag
3.1 Drag measurements
As described before, nal values of drag measurements are
the result of an averaging of independent runs. Tests are
performed for ve rear angles in L-1B, only two in L-1A.
Notice that the velocity of the test is not the same in the
two test sections (40m/s in L-1A and 50m/s in L-1B) that
leads to a Reynolds correction discussed hereafter.
In wind tunnel testing, innite free-ow conditions are
not veried because of the existence of an open or closed
test section boundaries. This is obvious in closed test sec-
tion but it is as well present in open-jet wind tunnels. In the
correction proposed for L-1B, only solid blockage effect is
considered, the correction, based on Maskell theory
(Maskell 1963), leads to the decrease of the drag coef-
cient by 1.1%. In the open test section, a positive correction
for blockage (corrected drag higher than measured drag) is
applied, equivalent to an increase in the drag coefcient by
The second correction is related to a Reynolds effect
since the tests in the two test sections are not done at the
same velocity. In the literature (Bayraktar et al. 2001), the
Reynolds effect on drag coefcient is very low: a decrease
of 1% for 1 million Reynolds increase. The compensation
is applied to reach a Reynolds number of 4.29. 10
, that
is around 60 m/s. That leads to a decrease in the value by
-0.5% for L-1B and by -1.2% for L-1A. In summary,
corrections lead to:
:1 0:016
:1 0:0045
After corrections, (Fig. 7), results from L-1A and L-1B are
matching: the difference is less than 0.5%. However, pre-
caution applies giving the uncertainty of the drag mea-
surement in L-1A: the error of the balance, calculated with
the calibration and the statistic error, is 4.91% with 95%
condence level. This is important compared to L-1B
aerodynamic balance that is more precise and gives only an
error of 1% with 95% condence level.
As described previously, the two tests are performed
with the same model but the set-up, the balance and the
measurement chain are different. It is therefore very
interesting to see that, after correction, results obtained are
Table 3 Laser and camera congurations
Frequency (Hz) Duration (ls) Dt (ls)
Laser 3 100 140
Camera 3 222 140
Table 4 PIV post-processing parameters
Parameter Value
Magnication factor 0.206 mm/px
Free stream displacement &8 px
Initial window size 64 px
Number of renement steps 1
Final window size 32 px
Overlapping 75%
Final number of vectors 33,300
Fig. 7 Comparison of nal VKI-L1 results with Ahmed literature
Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284 1277
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independent of the test facility and reproducible, which
proves a certain reliability of the results.
Similarly to Ahmed experiment, the evolution of the
drag coefcient presents three major parts (Fig. 7).
Between 10 and 20, the drag coefcient is not changing
very much, almost constant. From 20 to 30, it presents an
important increase, rising by almost 50% from 0.27 to
reach 0.40 at 30. At that precise rear angle, two behav-
iours are observed independently. They are after called
low drag and high drag congurations. From one run
to another, it is not possible to predict whether the drag
measured will be high or low. That enlightens the bista-
ble state at that angle called critical angle. Experimen-
tally, the low drag state is more probable than the high drag
state (3/1 ratio). The state while running the wind tunnel
can be determined thanks to tufts glued on the rear side of
the model. If the tufts are tilted up, it is high drag, and if
they are straight, it is the low drag conguration. After 30,
the drag coefcient remains low and almost constant.
3.2 Comparison with literature and discussions
Final results obtained in the two VKI test sections L-1A
and L-1B are consistent with each other and with the ori-
ginal Ahmed data as plotted in Fig. 7. After applying
blockage corrections, data obtained at VKI have really the
same tendency as described by Ahmed. The plot given in
Fig. 7 clearly shows the drag coefcient rising from 10 to
30. In VKI experiment, the 30 crisis is also present and
has more impact on drag than in the original Ahmed result.
Qualitatively, VKI results are comparable to reference
Ahmed data.
Quantitatively, VKI results (Table 5) give an overesti-
mation before 30 by less than 8%, except the 25 value
that is much more overestimated: around ?20%. On the
other hand, drag coefcients after the 30 crisis, including
the 30 in low drag conguration, are also overestimated,
by 12% in average.
Drag coefcient measurements carried out in VKI wind
tunnel were successful in the sense that the evolution of the
absolute values is quite well correlated by literature results.
In average, drag coefcients are overestimated by around
12%. Because similar in the two measurement campaigns
in an open and closed test section, this shift might be due to
a boundary condition created by the elevated oor or by a
geometrical difference between the VKI model and the
original one (front part, roughness...). The important dif-
ference for the 25 rear angle could be due to the high
sensitivity on the separation due to the sharpness of the rear
edge. However, except for 25, differences are limited
giving the sensitivity to operating conditions of a parameter
like drag coefcient. Additionally, the lack of description
of the Ahmed model does not allow to conclude.
The only interpretation of the drag coefcient data is not
enough to understand completely the ow around the
model. Other means are carried out on the rear part of the
model to ll this gap. Oil visualization and PIV are two
techniques complementary in the sense that oil gives
information on the wall streamlines while PIV gives a
velocity vector eld in the plane perpendicular to the
model surface. Information on two directions can therefore
be extracted.
4 Physical interpretation
4.1 Surface visualizations
Oil visualization is applied to the body and tested at 40m/s.
Shaped lines created by the oil displacement are repre-
sentative of wall streamlines if the momentum generated
by the ow on the oil is stronger than body forces like
gravity. An unknown is the effect of the oil on the ow
behaviour, especially in this case, where the rear edge
sharpness seems to play an important role. Specic oil
patterns are described according to Perry and Chong (1987)
as positive or negative bifurcation lines.
First, visualization is performed on the front of the body
where the experiment does not show any important dif-
ference while changing the rear part. A separation line,
characterized by the accumulation of oil, is clearly what
happens in Fig. 8 (left), at the junction between rounded
and straight parts. While not described by the very rst
studies using an Ahmed body, Spohn and Gillieron (2002)
observed the same behaviour. Krajnovic and Davidson
(2004) in a LES simulation came out with wall streamlines
Table 5 VKI and Ahmed drag coefcient comparison
Angle 5 10 12.5 20 25 30 30 40
Ahmed 0.2310 0.2300 0.2500 0.28 0.3780 0.26 0.255
L-1A 0.2684 0.2828
L-1B 0.2601 0.2690 0.3433 0.3932 0.2967 0.2839
L-1A/L1-B \0.5% \0.5%
L-1/Ahmed ?7.6% ?22% ?4% ?14% ?11%
1278 Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284
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very similar to those obtained with oil visualization. These
studies conrm that the separation in the front part of the
body even though not observed by Ahmed is linked to the
denition of the model itself. This detachment can be
easily removed by gluing a strip of sand paper before the
separation line, the roughness forcing the transition to
turbulent and avoiding the ow separation, (Fig. 8 (right)).
However, this changes the type of ow on the model to
fully turbulent and the drag calculated is changed in con-
sequence. This effect has been measured but is not reported
here, all visualizations and results of the present paper are
obtained without sand paper.
For a rear angle of 20 (Fig. 9), the middle wall
streamline goes straight away in the direction of the ow.
While going outward to the edges, streamlines are
diverging (positive bifurcation line or PBL) and converg-
ing (negative bifurcation line or NBL) with an S shape
in between. This is the materialization of a vortex. In
addition to the slant, visualization on the side of the model
shows that the ow is deviated to the top, Fig. 10. The
description of the visualization is summarized in Fig. 11, at
20, the ow structure is composed by a pair of longitu-
dinal vortices rolling in opposite direction from the edge to
the centre. There is no separation on the rear slant.
For a rear angle of 30 (Fig. 12), the ow being much
more complex behind the rear slant and velocities rela-
tively low, the visualization needs more effort. The video
taken during the test is a real advantage to describe pre-
cisely the direction of the wall streamlines. For this angle,
the middle streamline goes up, against the mean ow,
which is the signature of a recirculation. On the left and on
the right, similar patterns as in the 20 conguration are
observed indicating the presence of longitudinal vortices at
each edge (Fig. 13). The positive bifurcation line is here
more important than in the other congurations and makes
a boundary between the recirculation part and side vortices.
In the recirculation part, the ow seems to describe a
seashell shape like a mussel around the two upper corners
and joining along the rear slant centre. The description is
Fig. 8 Frontal separation (left) and effect of sand paper (right)
Fig. 9 Oil patterns, top view of the rear slant with 20 angle
Fig. 10 Side view after oil visualization with a rear slant of 20
Fig. 11 Drawing from test observations at 20
Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284 1279
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summarized in Fig. 14. The ow structure at 30 for the
high drag conguration is composed by a recirculation
bubble that reattaches on the rear slant surrounded by two
longitudinal vortices.
The numerical study made by Krajnovic and Davidson
(2005b) at 25 shows very similar behaviour with the
presence of longitudinal vortices and a smaller recircula-
tion bubble attached to the rear slant. Oil streamlines can
be easily compared to time-averaged trace lines. Patterns
are comparable, for example the convergence point in
Fig. 13 can be associated with the stable focus P

explained in the cited study. The description of the longi-

tudinal vortices is similar, but even if logical for the con-
tinuity of the ow, the presence of the three vortices is
difcult to conrm from oil patterns.
Visualizations at 30 in low drag conguration and at
40 are more difcult to obtain. Nevertheless, a visualiza-
tion at 30, of poorer quality, enlightens the bistable nature
of the conguration by showing completely different pat-
terns from the one described previously. From Fig. 15, no
longitudinal vortexes can be seen and the ow is mainly a
reverse ow, proof a recirculation. At the lower part of the
rear slant, there is a zone where streamlines are in the
direction of the main ow (downward on the picture). In
between, oil patterns are diverging in a PBL forming a
semicircle shape linking the two extremes bottom right and
bottom left edges of the rear slant. This is a sign of a
attachment line and probably demonstrates a secondary
recirculation at the rear slant.
The possibility to meet randomly one or another con-
guration at 30 is reinforced during the test by observing
the high drag conguration after turning on again the wind
tunnel without removing the oil used for the visualization
shown in Fig. 15.
To further understand the evolution of drag, oil visual-
ization is not enough, especially to describe the low drag
conguration at 30 and 40. Therefore, particle image
velocimetry is performed in the vertical symmetry plane.
4.2 PIV results in the rear symmetry plane
For technical reasons, the PIV study is carried out at only
13 m/s with a 30 rear angle. In these conditions, the state
of the drag coefcient is always in the low drag congu-
ration. Sims-Williams and Dominy (1998) observed also
the predominance of low drag conguration at low Rey-
nolds number.
Generally speaking, the data quality is acceptable. The
mean signal/noise ratio is above 3 and lower only in the
shear layer where the ow is highly three dimensional.
Table 6 gives details on error and uncertainty analysis for
the instantaneous images and for the statistical error made
after averaging 1,000 images.
The instantaneous velocity vector eld, Fig. 16, shows
an important velocity gradient and a signicant quiet
region with low velocities downstream the model. Notice
that there is no time correlation in Figs. 16 and 17 between
two regions because velocity elds were taken at different
time instants. From the instantaneous data, two different
Fig. 12 Oil patterns, top view of the rear slant with 30 angle (high
Fig. 13 Zoom and description of the oil result at 30 (high drag)
Fig. 14 Final drawing of oil observation at 30 (high drag)
1280 Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284
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techniques are applied to identify and characterize vortices
that can be expected in such a eld. Figure 17 gives in the
same time the two criteria: x
(in ood) and k
(in contour
lines). These two criteria are complementary, x
high curl locations with the direction of rotation and k
providing the position of the actual vortex. The direction of
rotation is clockwise if x
\0 and counterclockwise when
[0. The two criteria are matching at some positions,
these are the position of vortices, for example locations
A and B. However, no k
criteria is detected at position S: it
is a wall shear layer. The detection enlightens a vortex
shedding emanating from the upper rear edge. Vortices are
rolling in the clockwise direction (black in Fig. 17) and
moving in the streamwise direction. They are created in the
shear layer and similar to a KelvinHelmoltz instability.
Secondary vortices (white in Fig. 17) are present next to
the lower edge. In their numerical simulation with 25 rear
angle, Krajnovic and Davidson (2005b) emphasis this
vortex shedding. At 30 in low drag conguration, the
vortex shedding looks similar but, contrary to their case,
the ow does not reattach to the rear slant and counter-
clockwise vortices (B in Fig. 17) are much weaker
around the rear lower edge (x = 0). This instantaneous PIV
analysis emphasizes a regular vortex shedding at the rear
edge of the model and proves the highly unsteady nature of
the wake.
After averaging 1 000 pictures per plane, data from the
four different planes (but acquired at different time
instants) are joined together to recreate a complete eld
around the model. Discontinuities are then very limited in
the patterns shown, thanks to the high number of pictures
used for the average.
Figure 18 is the time-averaged velocity vector eld. Out
of the free ow (U
= 12.5 m/s), the velocity gradient is
very important and in the wake, the velocity is very low,
around 2-3 m/s, less than 20% of the free stream. The
pattern is similar to the one described for instantaneous
images with an important shear layer separating the free
ow and the wake. The normalized velocity proles (lon-
gitudinal component) plotted in Fig. 19 shows well the
recirculation area with the reverse ow. The turbulent
kinetic energy (TKE), computed with both longitudinal and
Fig. 15 Visualization at 30, in low drag conguration
Table 6 Measurement and statistical errors
Error Measurement error (%) Statistical error

U 1.28 \1.12% at 95%

Ti 1.95 6.2% at 95% Fig. 16 Instantaneous velocity eld in the rear symmetry plane at 30
rear angle
Fig. 17 Instantaneous vorticity eld x
(ood) and vortex detection
criteria (contour line) in the rear symmetry plane
Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284 1281
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vertical components, has a maximum value in the shear
layer downstream the rear upper edge. Results reported in a
normalized plots are comparable in behaviour and in
absolute value to those shown in Lienhart and Becker
(2003) by LDV measurements and with numerical data of
Krajnovic and Davidson (2005a) and Guilmineau (2008)
with a rear angle of 35.
From the plot of the ow streamlines in Fig. 20, it can
be seem that the recirculation centre is out of the mea-
surement plane. Additionally, a deection of the stream-
lines happens close to the surface at the lower rear edge
(x = -10) and might be a secondary recirculation area. The
normalized velocity eld in Fig. 19 for x close to zero on
the rear slant also experiences a change very close to the
slant. An adaptative PIV post-processing is applied to
resolve better the ow close to the wall. This enlightens the
presence of a secondary recirculation ow at the lower
edge of the model and correlates oil visualization (Fig. 15)
and the work of Guilmineau (2008), which shows a very
similar behaviour at 35 rear angle in a numerical study.
Streamline elds in the rear middle plane are directly
similar. The secondary recirculation in the present case
looks more extended than in the refereed work, this could
be explained by the difference of rear angle, at 30, the
secondary ow experiences a greater angle (60 instead of
55 in the literature). This secondary behaviour would need
further investigation (Fig. 21).
More generally speaking, the nature of the wake makes
no doubt: the ow is completely detaching at the rear
edge and not able to reattach on the rear slant, which
creates a global structure composed of an important
recirculation bubble behind the body and a secondary
circulation at the bottom of the rear surface. Notice that,
due to the perturbation, the free-stream ow is a little bit
bended downward. Following the literature and looking at
the oil visualization, the conguration is free of longitu-
dinal vortices.
The combination of two complementary techniques,
PIV and oil visualization, allows for a physical interpre-
tation of the drag measurement (Fig. 7). For a rear angle
of 20, the drag is mainly dependent on the formation of
two longitudinal vortices at the rear of the model. From
20 to 30, the increase in drag is due to a separation
appearing at the rear edge and reattaching on the rear
slant. The drag is rising due to the increase in the sepa-
ration in size combined with the longitudinal vortices,
until a rear angle for which the ow is not able to reattach
any more on the slant. At that angle, the wake is reor-
ganized in a global recirculation free of longitudinal
vortices. After 30, the ow is no longer attached to the
rear slant, the separation is set to the rear edge and the
drag coefcient remains constant.
Fig. 18 Time-averaged velocity eld in the rear symmetry plane
Fig. 19 Normalized velocity in turbulent kinetic energy proles
extracted from PIV data. Vertical prole each 20 mm
1282 Exp Fluids (2011) 50:12731284
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5 Conclusions
The aerodynamics of a car-type bluff body was investi-
gated through the so-called Ahmed body. Drag coefcient
measurements were performed within the VKI-L1 wind
tunnel using an open and closed test sections.
A very good sign of the reproducibility and the reli-
ability of the results is the matching between the tests
realized in the open and closed test sections. Less than
0.5% of difference proves an independence of the test
section and the quality of the data that can be obtained in
the wind tunnel.
However, some differences are observed between the
VKI results and original data from Ahmed. Differences of
around 12% are present, they might be due to geometrical
difference on the model or on the oor. Unfortunately,
denitive conclusions cannot be set because complete
comparison with the original data is limited by the lack of
precise information on the literature: model roughness,
detailed frontal geometry or precise oncoming boundary
The physical understanding of the ow behaviour
around the rear of the model was analysed by various types
of measurement techniques. The combination of two
complementary techniques like oil visualization and PIV is
very helpful specially in the low drag conguration of
the 30 rear angle. More challenging to set-up, PIV has
the other great advantage of giving information on the
unsteadiness structure of the ow, something not possible
with averaging techniques like oil visualization.
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