Beta Hits the Track for Vehicle Dynamics Testing

Last year, we completed the Alpha phase of development of our solar electric vehicle, which served to validate our basic design and engineering. Since then we’ve progressed through the Beta phase of development, making some impressive advancements in the front and rear suspension, drivetrain, and ergonomics of our solar electric vehicles.

Our Four Phases of Development

  1. Alpha — Early prototypes to validate our basic design and engineering
  2. Beta — Test mules used to integrate production parts and evaluate dynamic and transient vehicle behavior 
  3. Gamma — Production-intent vehicles used to iron out final production details
  4. Delta — Production vehicles for customer deliveries

Vehicle Dynamics Testing

Aptera’s Chassis team recently took to Chuckwalla Raceway to put our Beta development efforts to the test.

Vehicle dynamics testing is the first phase of testing we are performing within the Beta program. In this phase, we evaluate responses of the vehicle in various dynamic situations to assess how a component or subsystem influences the overall vehicle ride, handling, and performance.

During our time at the track, we ran a series of dynamics tests on the following areas of our solar electric vehicle:

  • Acceleration
  • Turning radius
  • Braking
  • Suspension
  • Steering

“We use high-precision sensors on geometric points of the steering and suspension members to measure longitudinal and transverse dynamics during various driving situations” explains Nathan Engler, Chassis Engineer. “What we are looking for is information about how closely the vehicle matches steady-state stability characteristics we’ve designed for.”

Tests ranged from ISO double lane change, constant radius, constant steer angle, and straight-line braking, and straight-line acceleration. “The sensors,” explains Engler, “are connected to a data logger that feeds into our simulation model to confirm that it is behaving as we expect it to in the real world.”

Key Takeaways

Now that our first vehicle dynamics testing is complete, our engineers have been hard at work analyzing the results. 

“Generally, we saw a step change in better handling characteristics compared to our Alpha vehicles,” says Engler. “With these results, we’ll finetune hardpoints of the suspension and steering system to develop the most efficient, safe, and fun-to-drive vehicle possible.” 

Furthermore, we gained critical insights on the centering behavior of the vehicle’s steering system, stability during emergency braking situations, and the effects of overdamped versus underdamped systems to ride quality and maneuverability. This information will be useful as our development continues into later phases.

We’re thrilled with our results, which validated the improvements our team has been working on since our Alpha phase completed and indicated that we’re right on track to meet our production goals of the most efficient solar transportation on the planet.

The Next Phase of Suspension Testing

Once we’ve finetuned the hard points of our vehicle model as a result of our vehicle dynamics testing at Chuckwalla, we will start on the next iteration of our development.

Components like dampers and bushings will be mostly sized at this point and we will be making minor adjustments to their rates as we move forward via swappable tuning parts.

“Our goal is to build a vehicle that is exciting to drive, but still absorbs bumps over rough roads, and reduces vibrations and noise on the highway.”