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Debojyoti Mitra / International Journal of Engineering Science and Technology

Vol. 2 (7), 2010, 2678-2680

Design Optimization of Ground Clearance of

Domestic Cars
Associate Professor & Head
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Sir Padampat Singhania University
Udaipur – 313601, Rajasthan.
Phone No: 09602285716

Drag and lift forces plays a vital role in the performance and stability of vehicles. Less drag means
less fuel consumption and hence less vehicular pollution. Also, lower lift force means higher chance of adhesion of
the car body with the ground causing less overturning of the vehicle, which improves the vehicle performance. Both
drag and lift forces can be manipulated by varying the ground clearance of the cars. The present study concentrates
on studying the effect of ground clearance on these aerodynamic forces experimentally. Wind tunnel studies with a
notch-back car model revealed increase in drag and decrease in lift with increase in ground clearance. Therefore,
optimization is required for designing the best ground clearance and a preferable value of the same is thus obtained.
Ground clearance, Drag coefficient, Lift Coefficient, Notch-back car, wheelbase dimension.
At present, nearly all aerodynamic design for road vehicle relies on a combination of experimental results,
experience, and physical understanding of the way that air flows behave. Much aerodynamic development involves
with experiments using domestic car models in wind tunnel.
Drag, in surface vehicle aerodynamics, is the measure of the aerodynamic force, which resists the forward
motion of the vehicle (Bernard, 1996). A low drag coefficient implies that the vehicle body can move easily through
the surrounding viscous air with minimum air resistance, whereas a high negative lift coefficient indicates more
stability and less chances of skidding.
Researchers throughout the world are carrying out extensive research works to lower the drag coefficient
and increase the negative lift coefficient by properly designing the shape of the vehicles. Palowski may be
considered the pioneer in this field having explored the wind resistance on automobiles way back in 1930. Carr
(1968) has commendable contributions in the field of aerodynamics of road vehicles and its dependency on vehicle
shapes. Reduction in drag implies less fuel consumption: it has been rightly pointed out by Sovran et al. (1983).
Bernard (1996), Hucho (1998), Heinz (2002) and Julian (2002) are a few more who have dedicated work on this
field in the recent past. Recently, Mitra (2010) studied the effect of relative wind on Notch Back cars. Mitra (2010)
also studied the design estimation of aerodynamic angles based on wind tunnel experiments.
The flow field of a car is the result of its shape, its driving speed and the speed and the direction of
the ambient wind. The present scope of study consists of estimation of proper ground clearance for domestic cars.
The purpose of this study is to ascertain how the ground clearance plays a role to minimize the drag force and to
maximize the negative lift. The study is confined to notch-back car, which is mostly used for domestic purpose.
Experimental Procedure
The experiments were carried out at Jadavpur University Low Turbulence Subsonic Closed Circuit Wind
Tunnel. A notch-back car model was employed to carry out the experiment (same as in Mitra, 2010). The car
model is kept at the lower test section of the wind tunnel. Pressure tappings were provided along the under
surface, upper surface and the other sides of the car model to take the pressure readings. Now in this
experiment ‘h’ represents the height from the floor of the wind tunnel to the under surface of the car
model, and ‘b’ represents the wheelbase dimension, i.e. the distance between the front wheel axle and the rear
wheel axle. The notchback car model is placed in the wind tunnel with the front facing the flow and at this

ISSN: 0975-5462 2678

Debojyoti Mitra / International Journal of Engineering Science and Technology
Vol. 2 (7), 2010, 2678-2680

position the ‘h’ and the ‘b’ values are noted down . The ratio h/b is a very important parameter in this
experiment and for this h/b value pressure readings were obtained form the car model to get the drag and lift
coefficient values at Re = 2.035 X 105. Then by keeping the ‘b’ value fixed the ‘h’ value is varied by adding
small strips of wooden piece of measured dimension underneath the wheels of the notchback car model.
Hence the ‘h’ value is gradually increased and so the ‘h/b’ value automatically gets increased. For each ‘h/b’
value surface pressure readings were obtained to get the drag and lift coefficients.
Results and Discussions
Plots of drag coefficient versus h/b ratio and lift coefficient versus h/b ratio are obtained from the measured
and calculated data, as are shown in Fig. 1 and 2 respectively. It is seen that as the height above the ground
increases in vehicles the lift coefficient decreases. Hence, small ground clearance gives rise to positive lift
while large ground clearance tends to produce negative lift .But the drag coefficient increases as the ground
clearance increases. So large vehicles with considerable ground clearance has the advantage of producing
negative lift while the drag gets increased. Therefore, an optimization of the two is necessitated. It is found that
the drag coefficient varies between 0.36 and 0.58, while lift coefficient varies between +0.3 and -0.3. It can be
observed from the figures 1 and 2 that at h/b = 0.2, drag coefficient is around 0.4 and lift coefficient is negative and
is around -0.22. These values may be considered acceptable as the drag is near to the minimum and the lift is
sufficiently negative. Hence, one can design the car with h/b having a value of around 0.2.

Drag Coefficient (Cd)

0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4 0.45 0.5

Fig. 1 Variation of drag coefficient with h/b ratio

Lift Coefficient

-0.1 0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4

Fig. 2 Variation of lift coefficient with h/b ratio

ISSN: 0975-5462 2679

Debojyoti Mitra / International Journal of Engineering Science and Technology
Vol. 2 (7), 2010, 2678-2680

The above results show that the drag force acting on a domestic notch-back car increases with increase in
ground clearance, while the lift coefficient reduces and becomes negative with increasing ground clearance. An
optimized value of h/b ratio may be taken as 0.2 for design of domestic cars in order to keep the drag at a lower
value while making the lift considerable negative.

[1] Palowski, F.W. (1930); “Wind resistance of automobiles”; SAE Journal, Vol. 27.
[2] Barnard, R H 1996, ”Road Vehicle Aerodynamic Design,” Longman, ISBN 0-582-24522-2
[3] Heisler Heinz, 2nd Edition 2002, “Advanced vehicle Technology”, pp.584-634.
[4] Happian-Smith Julian, 2002, “An introduction to Modern Vehicle Design,” pp.111-124
[5] Carr, G.W. (1968). The aerodynamics of basic shapes for road vehicles, Part 2, Saloon car bodies, MIRA, Report no. 1968/9.
[6] Hucho,W.H, (1998). Aerodynamics of Road Vehicles: from Fluid Mechanics to Vehicle Engineering, 4th edition, S.A.E., ISBN 0-7680-
[7] Sovran, G. (1983); “Tractive-energy-based formulae for the impact of aerodynamics on fuel economy Over the EPA Driving Schedules”,
SAE Paper No. 830304..
[8] Mitra, D. (2010). “Effect of Relative Wind on Notch-Back Cars with Add-on Parts”, International Journal of Engineering Science and
Technology, Vol.2, No.4, pp. 472-476.
[9] Mitra, D. (2010). “Design estimation of Aerodynamic Angles of High Speed Cars”, International Journal of Engineering Science and
Technology, Vol.2, No.5, pp. 952-956.

ISSN: 0975-5462 2680