On automotive vehicles, the cowl box is a volume located at the bottom of the windshield, under the cowl top grille. It provides external fresh air to the HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) unit and it is used to collect water coming from the windshield under rain conditions. This box is designed as a tranquillisation chamber to segregate water from air and avoid the ingress of rainwater into the HVAC unit. However, as the area is awkward to access with measuring devices, our knowledge about the physics of flow in the cowl box is limited.

The present work aims to advance our knowledge through experimental work on the air/water flow in a simplified cowl box in order to optimize the box size and improve numerical models. This paper will focus on the analysis of the bathtub vortex, which is potentially responsible for insufficient draining of the water collected in the cowl box.

The experimental set-up consists of a Plexiglas parallelepiped representing a simplified cowl box with top cowl grille, HVAC inlet and drain. A blower generates airflow through the HVAC inlet. A water sheet, with controlled flow rate, is created on an inclined plane representing the windshield. Velocity measurements of all components are obtained by PIV (Particle Image Velocimetry) in the liquid phase and the surface level is recorded by a capacitance probe near the drain. Moreover, contour detection of the vortex core is achieved using a high-speed camera. Results show a relationship between the pressure loss generated by the airflow in the cowl box, the water level and the vortex structure. The modification of the vortex structure as well as the modification of velocity components near the air core are visible only in transient stages. These experimental results give us today some insight to understand the physical phenomena occurring in the cowl box.

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