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Crash Test with ANSYS/ LS-DYNA

The University of Vermont AERO (Alternative Energy Racing Organization) Hybrid Race Car Team competes annually in the Formula Hybrid International Competition. As part of a new requirement, each competing team had to also prove that their car could withstand a given front end impact. With the race one week away, and no time or resources for physical testing of their proposed impact attenuator design, UVM's AERO team contacted CAE Associates for help with a finite element simulation of the crash test.

CAE Associates was chosen to help based on their explicit dynamics expertise in the area of crash test simulation and the capability to offer design guidance in the event that modifications were required to the proposed design. UVM's AERO team also trusted CAE Associates’ ability to provide the results in a very short timeframe – without an acceptable design in a week, the UVM AERO team would miss the annual competition deadline.

Figure 1. Impact Attenuator

CAE Associates constructed a finite element model of the impact attenuator (shown mounted on the front of the car in Figure 1) and performed a crash simulation using the ANSYS/ LS-DYNA software. UVM’s initial design met the deceleration criteria. After careful analysis of the simulation results,  CAE Associates provided an additional design modification to the UVM AERO team that would further enhance the driver's safety. Figure 2 shows a comparison of the acceleration results from two different designs.

Figure 2. Calculation of the Car's Peak Deceleration During Impact

CAE Associates’ ability to provide a fast and accurate solution allowed UVM to meet their requirements and deadline. Afterwards; the following letter, written by one of the team members, was received by CAE Associates:

To the Engineers at CAE Associates,

The University of Vermont AERO (Alternative Energy Racing Organization) hybrid race car team would like to thank you for the impact analysis you preformed for us.  Our impact attenuator is an aluminum honeycomb block of complex geometry which mounts to the front of the vehicle.  Your team was able to successfully simulate a head-on impact for us and observe the crumple characteristics of the block.  Your support and advice throughout the modeling process were invaluable to the team.  The final report included animations and plots of deceleration vs. time for our two possible impact attenuator configurations.  It contained everything we needed to justify our design to the rules committee.  Once more, we’d like to thank you for working with us on such short notice.  The hour had grown late when we realized that we couldn’t perform an analysis like this in-house.  Racing is all about speed and we greatly appreciate yours.


Kate Johannesen