SAE Journal of Passenger Cars Electric and Electrical Systems

Authors: G. N. Vanderplaats
Publication Date: September 2004

Numerical optimization is a little understood and even lesser used design tool which can have a significant effect on our efforts to reduce energy consumption, improve environmental quality and provide safer, more comfortable vehicles. Optimization is a numerical search method that can be applied to almost any engineering discipline where we perform computer analyses, whether structures, fluid dynamics or almost anything else. Though seldom taught in engineering colleges, these design methods and tools have been developed over the past forty years to a high level of maturity. The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, we will discuss the basic concept of design optimization. It will be seen that optimization can be coupled with almost any computer analysis and even experimental tests to change the important inputs to improve one or more outputs, with limits on other outputs. The second purpose will be to demonstrate that optimization works. Examples will be given to demonstrate that the mass of existing parts can be reduced by several percent with no loss in strength, design quality can be improved with minimal increase in mass and hybrid vehicle economy can be improved while reducing pollutants. An additional bonus of optimization is the engineering insight it provides to any design problem. It is concluded that, whether we apply it to existing designs or to future hybrid or fuel cell vehicles, optimization technology can be used with minimal added cost or effort to significantly reduce energy consumption.