Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Ford, Renault-Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen and Hyundai-Kia are just a few of the automakers using Exa's PowerFLOW program. The company says 14 of the 15 top automakers are using it.
A vehicle's ability to slip through air is measured by drag coefficient, a complex formula that includes a vehicle's shape, surface friction and other factors. Advanced vehicles now have a drag coefficient below 0.25.
For a small automaker such as Jaguar Land Rover, which has said it will launch 50 models or updates in the next five years, speed to market is important. So the company is relying on computer simulation for a growing amount of its initial design and engineering work.
"We are in the process of transferring a major part of our engineering from the physical world into the virtual world," said Mark Stanton, Jaguar Land Rover's vehicle engineering director. "Other industries, like aerospace, have already gone down that path, and we are building on their experience."
Computer simulation enables designers to measure airflow over, under and around vehicles before those vehicles are built, then tweak bumpers, doors, trunk lids, wheels and other parts to ensure a slippery shape that also is appealing to the eye.
"In a wind tunnel, you get to measure the drag, but you don't get to see why [the air behaves the way it does]. If I understand why I got better or worse, I can maybe make it even better than that rather than just trial and error," Remondi said.