Innoptus Solar Team: 10,000 seconds faster with CFD simulations

The goal of the Innoptus Solar Team this year was to design a car that is 10,000 seconds faster than the previous solar car.

The goal of the Innoptus Solar Team this year was to design a car that is 10,000 seconds faster than the previous solar car. In a conversation with Vincent Mertens (CFD Engineer Innoptus Solar Team) and Emmerick Vandervelpen (Technical CFD Consultant Infinite), we delve deeper into the added value of simulations to achieve this goal.


The Aero Department of the Solar Team plays a vital role in the car's design. They set the direction for other departments. "The car's largest resistance is indeed air resistance," says engineer Vincent Mertens. "When we start the design process, we don't have a physical car yet. All decisions we make are based on the simulations we conduct using Ansys software."

These simulations also form a foundation upon which other departments build. Vincent says, "If we suggest a modification, other departments will examine how they can respond to it. We express improvements in terms of the number of seconds it can save us. Other departments can evaluate their required adjustments based on the proposal and express that in terms of time gained or lost. Thus, we eventually get a number of seconds that can help us decide if the proposed improvement is effectively better overall."

Wind Tunnel Testing

Once the final design is transformed into a physical Solar Car, it undergoes wind tunnel testing. "A wind tunnel test sounds amazing beforehand, but in reality, it can be quite challenging," Vincent explains. "Our initial simulations are based on conditions in Australia, but a wind tunnel is different. Hence, we create special simulations to determine the expected results in the wind tunnel. This way, we can still discern if we are on the right track."

In addition to tunnel testing, the Innoptus Solar Team also tests the solar car on partner Ford's circuit. They primarily test the car's behavior under various wind conditions. Vincent notes, "Some situations are hard to test because they depend on the on-site conditions. But Ford has large wind turbines, enabling us to test with different crosswinds. It's never exactly the same, but this allows our pilots to get a feel for the car's behavior."

Collaboration with Infinite

Collaborating with Infinite has been immensely beneficial for the team. "We have invested a lot of time over the past few years in training team members through support and training sessions," says Emmerick, who provides support for the Solar Team from Infinite. "We have also focused heavily on automating the simulation process. Each year, the Solar Team simulates over 1,000 cars. We have now streamlined the model preparation process, significantly reducing simulation times."

Vincent adds, "This year, we are also working extra on the car's stability at different crosswind angles." Stability is crucial. "There's a lot of wind in Australia. You want to make your car as fast as possible, but it shouldn't be blown away. That's why it's so important to address this in your CFD simulations," Emmerick explains.

By continuously assisting the team in their simulations, the new car stands a very good chance of achieving the 10,000-second improvement target. We wish all the students a lot of fun in Australia and can't wait to see INFINITE in action from October 22nd to 29th!