Ford helped the University of Michigan Solar Car Team at every step of the way, from car construction to race preparation and finally, to the 2017 World Solar Challenge itself.
“Manufacturing or racing our 14th car would not have been possible without Ford's support,” 2017 Project Manager Jonathan Cha elaborates, going on to describe the details of Ford’s help. “Ford has supported us with machine time in the Ford Design Milling shop, caravan vehicles, and usage of the Jacobs Wind Tunnel. This year, we designed the most aerodynamic vehicle in the team's 27-year history, and with Ford's help, we were able to verify our vehicle's aerodynamic capabilities in their wind tunnel.”
When we built Novum, Ford milled plugs from our tooling board for us to use in our composites manufacturing process. Building an all-carbon fiber car is no small feat, and having Ford’s help with this all-important step ensured that we put our best foot forward in this difficult process. These plugs enabled us to make our molds, and our molds enable us to make our carbon fiber chassis, canopy, upper, fenders, and fairings. Ford-milled plugs were the first step in building our entire aerobody. This means that Ford Milling had a direct hand in helping the University of Michigan take its most aerodynamic car to date off of the drawing board and into reality.
Once we finished building Novum, WSC preparations were not over. Ford yet again graciously allowed the University of Michigan Solar Car Team to test its solar vehicle in its Jacobs Wind Tunnel. There, in order to gain a better comprehension of the performance and efficiency of Novum, team members conducted various aerodynamic tests. And because we were testing in Ford’s wind tunnel, we were able to acquire numerous data points for a wider range of angles and speeds than we otherwise could have.
We covered Novum in tell tails, strings attached at several points on the car that enabled our engineers to gauge turbulence and air flow. The team also performed other air flow tests at different yaw angles. Injecting smoke into the wind tunnel, for example, granted the team an opportunity to observe with great visualization where Novum has flow separation along its aerobody.
All these tests and coefficient calculations had far-reaching benefits for Michigan’s racing efforts. Being able to accurately quantify these aerodynamic values meant possessing reliable numbers that we could base our race simulations on; this helped our Strategy Division make decisions and plan ahead when on the road in Australia.
Ford also influenced our race operations, providing us with our Lead, Chase, Scout, Weather, and Media caravan vehicles in Australia to support Novum’s trek across the Outback. Being able to race with this full caravan meant that Novum had the support she needed and our Race Crew’s capabilities were not limited.
Ever a staunch supporter of the team, Ford was integral to the University of Michigan’s recent historic finish in the 2017 World Solar Challenge. We are now working together in preparation for the 2018 American Solar Challenge, making sure our team successfully modifies Novum to comply with regulations. For example, Ford milled the plug for our new canopy, which is currently in the process of being built.
We are very grateful for the past 25 years of partnership with Ford, and we look forward to continuing collaboration in the future!