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British firm builds virtual Nardo test track for EVs

A British firm is digitally recreating Italy’s famous Nardò test track, to “accelerate development” of the next generation of electric vehicles.

The project, headed by software specialists rFpro, will see the Nardò Technical Centre’s test circuit created in the virtual world, allowing car makers to test the performance of new platforms before physically building them.

This, the firm said, will allow engineers to assess their vehicle’s benchmark performance at the start of the design cycle, saving both time and money.

“As the industry moves from ICE to electrification, vehicle dynamicists are having to rewrite their rule book,” said Matt Daley, operations director at rFpro. 

“The way an electrified powertrain interacts with the chassis is significantly different to that of a traditional engine. As a result, vehicle dynamic engineers want to accelerate their understanding of this change to prevent issues arising later in the development cycle.”

Owned by Porsche, the Nardò venue is one of the leading proving grounds in the world and is a go-to resource for major automotive manufacturers. Its 3.9-mile handling track features a 1000m straight and 16 corners of varying radius and speed. Its renowned layout, which includes crests, bumps and kerbs, makes it ideal for developing new chassis technologies, according to firms that have used it.

The track’s managing director, Antonio Gratis, also backed the plans, adding: “By creating a digital twin of our handling track, we will enable manufacturers to speed up their chassis development programmes for systems such as suspension, steering and braking.”

rFpro says that for the digital version to be as effective as a development tool, it must be as accurate as the real thing. To achieve this, phase-based laser scanning is being used to create models with an accuracy of around 1mm.

A core feature of rFpro’s software is its TerrainServer surface model, which can simulate a high-definition surface. This, the firm added, is more accurate than using point-based sampling methods, which can miss key details. 

“The Nardò proving ground is a world-class, controlled environment for track-based vehicle dynamics development,” said Daley. 

“An incredibly detailed digital model of it becomes an integrated part of a customers’ continuous software development tool chain, significantly reducing overall engineering development and validation time – and therefore cost.

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