Digital twin to help accelerate development of next-generation electric vehicles
A highly accurate virtual model of the handling track is being developed by UK software specialist, rFpro, at the Nardò Technical Center in Italy. The digital twin will enable vehicle manufacturers to accelerate development of next-generation electric vehicle platforms by testing them in a fully representative virtual environment before correlating and validating the results on the track.
“As the industry moves from ICE to electrification, vehicle dynamicists are having to re-write their rule book”, according to Matt Daley, Operations Director at rFpro. “The way an electrified powertrain interacts with the chassis is significantly different to that of a traditional engine. As a result, vehicle dynamic engineers want to accelerate their understanding of this change to prevent issues arising later in the development cycle.”
rFpro’s new digital-twin of the Nardò handling circuit allows engineers to assess and benchmark vehicle performance quantitively at the start of the design cycle. This includes optimising the trade-off between motor type and size against battery sizing to meet range and acceleration targets. It also facilitates driver-in-the-loop simulations for additional subjective assessments, such as ride and handling.
The Nardò Technical Center is one of the leading proving grounds in the world and is a go-to resource for major automotive manufacturers. Its 6.2km long handling track features a 1km straight and 16 corners of varying radius and speed. Its renowned layout, which includes crests, bumps and kerbs, makes it ideal for developing new chassis technologies.
To be effective as a development tool, the digital twin must correlate accurately with the real world. rFpro utilises phase-based laser scanning survey data to create models with an accuracy of around 1mm in Z (height) and in X and Y (position).
A core feature of rFpro’s software is its TerrainServer surface model that enables a high-definition surface to be simulated. By capturing detailed surface information that is missed by point-based sampling methods, TerrainServer allows very high correlation with the actual road surfaces used during physical testing. This enables the use of the digital model for vehicle dynamics applications, even allowing ride and secondary ride experiments to be conducted by real-time models on driving simulators.
“The Nardò proving ground is a world-class, controlled environment for track-based vehicle dynamics development”, said Daley. He added: “An incredibly detailed digital model of it becomes an integrated part of a customers’ continuous software development tool-chain, significantly reducing overall engineering development and validation time – and therefore cost.
“By creating a digital twin of our handling track, we will enable manufacturers to speed up their chassis development programs for systems such as suspension, steering and braking,” explained Antonio Gratis, Managing Director of the Nardò Technical Center. “Through simulation, they can progress further and faster through the development process and arrive at the track with a more mature design, making more productive use of all the available track time. We are also seeing demand from specialist suppliers, such as tyre manufacturers, who are continually seeking to reduce development lead times.”
rFpro’s digital twin of the Nardò handling track will be its latest addition to a library of digital models which is the world’s largest, and includes proving grounds, test tracks and thousands of kilometres of varying real roads. rFpro is the industry’s most open simulation software package, compatible with a wide range of vehicle models and driving simulation platforms.
Nardò’s handling track combines some of the most challenging features of existing tracks in a confidential environment, away from public view. Its layout has made it one of the most renowned testing facilities available with the circuit being a go-to resource for major automotive manufacturers.