About Accelerating Product Development & the Corvette E-Ray

By Gary S. Vasilash

One of the things that all vehicle manufacturers seek to do is to decrease development time.

This is not only so they can get new, more competitive models on the street more quickly than there competition—though there is that—but because developing a new vehicle is really, really expensive, so if they can reduce the amount of time required, ideally this means the amount of resources are similarly reduced, which means reduced costs.

And the first rule of the auto industry is to make money.

Making sure that all of the elements go toward providing the kind of ride and handling that is expected for a given model (i.e., a plush sedan will have different characteristics than a sports coupe) is an expensive and time-intensive undertaking.

Consider, for example, a test vehicle is assembled then put out on a ride and handling course and it is determined that there is something off in the steering or suspension.

VI-grade simulation system for product development. (Image: VI-grade)

Once it is determined what the issue is (shocks? tires? something else?) there is a replacement made and the test is run again. Making that replacement can require manufacturing of new components. As those components are being made as one-off prototypes, they are certainly not cheap. And it is likely that it takes weeks for them to be ready.

None of which contributes to quick product development.

VI-grade, a company based in Darmstadt, Germany, has an alternative: a simulation-based approach.

This is a sophisticated combination of hardware and software: Yes, it is like a driving simulation game rig but one that has much, much, much more fidelity to reality. After all, the elements are taken from the CAD and CAE files that describe the various elements that go into making the vehicle and there are sophisticated visuals and haptics involved in a VI-grade system.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” VI-grade’s Michael Hoffman talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, freelance writer Don Sherman, and me about how the tech works (in a way that non-engineers can understand).

Also, Sherman, who is more than a minor expert on all-things Corvette, shares what he’s recently learned about the E-Ray hybrid from the Corvette engineering team.

And you can see it all here.

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