De meest aerodynamische Volkswagen die ooit is gebouwd, is een vreemde, ruimteschipachtige auto die minder dan 3 voet lang was

Translating…

  • Four decades ago, after the oil crisis, Volkswagen built a car it still claims to be more aerodynamic than “any production vehicle.”
  • It was called the ARVW, and its aim was to prove that even a car with modest horsepower could get up to speed with the right aerodynamics and low enough weight.
  • It had a top speed of 225 mph and was incredibly fuel efficient.
  • Despite its age, the focuses behind the ARVW – weight and aerodynamics – remain pillars of the auto industry today.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When you picture land-speed record cars, you think of needle-like noses and low-slung, tubular bodies – horizontal rockets, basically. Slap a Volkswagen badge on the front and you’ve got the ARVW, the most aerodynamic Volkswagen ever built.

And, no, it’s not even a remotely recent development.

Called the “Aerodynamic Research Volkswagen,” the project was born as a result of the oil crisis of the 1970s and arrived at the test track in late 1980. The price of oil had spiked, sending shockwaves throughout the world and hitting the oil-dependent automotive industry especially hard. Automakers went from pumping out big, fuel-burning V8s to figuring out how to maximize efficiency.

The ARVW was a study in demonstrating how an attention to aerodynamics and weight reduction can produce high speeds from considerably lower power.

That latter part is something known as a “power-to-weight ratio.” It means that any amount of horsepower – let’s say 300, for the sake of visualization – can push a light, two-seater sports car a whole lot faster than it can a bus because there’s simply less mass to push.

The_ARVW 11578 Volkswagen

Foto: The ARVW. Source: Volkswagen

The first challenge in creating this super-light, air-slicing vehicle, according toVolkswagen, was to pack a powertrain, four wheels, and a driver into the tiniest car possible. Engineers tucked the wheels beneath the body and smoothed out the car’s underbody. The end result stood just 33 inches tall and 43.3 inches wide, or less than three feet by four feet.

The vehicle was incredibly light, built from an aluminum frame under a fiberglass and carbon body. Its drag coefficient was an incredible 0.15.

That might sound like a silly science term that you’d rather gloss over, but it’s important. A drag coefficient is used to quantify the resistance or “drag” of something in a fluid environment, such as water or air. The lower the coefficient, the more aerodynamic that something is. By comparison, a new-to-2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan impressed the industry with a drag coefficient of 0.22. In 2015, Tesla made headlinesbecause it announced it wanted to have its Model 3 sedan achieve a market-beating drag coefficient of 0.20.

Volkswagen claims the drag coefficient of the ARVW, a vehicle that came to life four decades ago, “remains far sleeker than any production vehicle.”

The_ARVW 11579 Volkswagen

Foto: The ARVW. Source: Volkswagen

The ARVW was powered by a version of the Volkswagen Rabbit engine: a 2.4-liter diesel inline-six. Volkswagen added a high-boost turbocharger and an intercooler, which more than doubled the engine’s original output to 175 horsepower, according to a feature in a January 1982 issue of Popular Science.

The ARVW’s intercooler in particular was special, Popular Science wrote that year:

Intercoolers, which are used on trucks and cars, are generally air-to-air heat exchanger (although there are some water-cooled units). ARVW’s intercooler, however, sprays water directly into the incoming air – to cool it so the cylinders get a denser charge.

Volkswagen elaborated in a recent press release: “By using an onboard water tank that injected water into the turbocharger’s intake, the engine needed few cooling vents, and the main cooling vent was positioned in the nose to let air flow smoothly over its radiator and exit on top of the vehicle.”

That figure of 175 horsepower also doesn’t seem like much – it’s about the output of a modernHonda Civic. But with the lightweight body and extreme dedication to pure aerodynamics, the ARVW was able to hit 221 mph during its first hour of testing in October 1980. Eventually, it topped out at 225 mph.

Comparatively, the McLaren F1– which for yearsheld the record of the fastest production car in the world – needed 627 horsepowerto achieve a top speed of240.1 mph. The F1, by the way, has a drag coefficient of 0.32.

But the F1 was built for the production-car market, whereas the ARVW was a “laboratory on wheels,” according to the 1982 Popular Science story. More room for experimentation, there.

Large 4635 McLaren Special Operations Heritage

Foto: The McLaren F1. Source: McLaren

Jan P. Norbye, who wrote the Popular Science story, got an opportunity to personally drive the car. Norbye reported that rather than emitting a banshee-like race car shriek, the ARVW exuded “a steady drone like the big, slow-turning diesels used on ferry boats.”

By far, the most incredible thing about the car was its fuel economy. Popular Science reported that at 90 mph, the ARVW was getting 71.2 mpg; at 160 mph, 38.5 mpg; at 215 mph, 17.3 mpg.

This is proof that all the technology and horsepower in the world will never beat good old physics.

The_ARVW 11581 Volkswagen

Foto: The ARVW. Source: Volkswagen

“While the ARVW isn’t the fastest diesel in the world,” Norbye concluded, “it does hold six class speed records, plus outright records for 500 km from a standing start (214.4 average) and for one-hour endurance (219.5 mph average).

“The records are only incidental, however. The real importance of the project is the wealth of knowledge gained about aerodynamics vs. fuel economy, and about the turbo diesel thermodynamics. That knowledge is being put to use to improve present and future cars, and that is the payoff.”

Norbye was right.

The ARVW went on to inspire the shape of the revolutionary Volkswagen XL1, a weird-looking diesel and plug-in hybrid that debuted in 2013. It had a drag coefficient of 0.189. Currently, Volkswagen is using lessons learned from the ARVW in creating its upcoming ID family of electric cars.

volkswagen xl1 front side 0 191290

Foto: Volkswagen XL1. Source: Volkswagen

Fuel efficiency is also the future of cars, as demonstrated by different governments’ plans to further crack down on emissionsin the coming years and decades.

That can be aided by both the powertrains – electric vehicles and hybrids – and aerodynamics. Sleekness and efficiency dominate the automotive aesthetic today, giving us shapes born of science and blended with modern design, and they’ll continue to do so as the automotive industry adapts to its new normal.

And to think, companies such as Volkswagen already had the ball rolling on this more than four decades ago.

Lees Verder

Plaats een reactie