The vehicle optimal design is a multi-objective multi-domain optimization problem. Each design aspect must be analyzed by taking into account the interactions present with other design aspects. Given the size and complexity of the problem, the application of global optimization methodologies is not suitable; hierarchical problem decomposition is beneficial for the problem analysis.

This paper studies the handling dynamics optimization problem as a sub-problem of the vehicle optimal design. This sub-problem is an important part of the overall vehicle design decomposition. It is proposed that the embodiment design stage can be performed in an optimal viewpoint with the application of the analytical target cascading (ATC) optimization strategy. It is also proposed that the design variables should have sufficient physical significance, but also give the overall design enough design degrees of freedom. In this way, other optimization sub-problems can be managed with a reduced variable redundancy and sub-problem couplings.

Given that the ATC strategy is an objective-driven methodology, it is proposed that the objectives of the handling dynamics, which is a sub-problem in the general ATC problem, can be defined from a Pareto optimal set at a higher optimization level. This optimal generation of objectives would lead to an optimal solution as seen at the upper-level hierarchy.

The use of a lumped mass handling dynamics model is proposed in order to manage an efficient optimization process based in handling dynamics simulations. This model contains detailed information of the tire properties modeled by the Pacejka tire model, as well as linear characteristics of the suspension system. The performance of this model is verified with a complete multi-body simulation program such as ADAMS/car.

The handling optimization problem is presented including the proposed design variables, the handling dynamics simulation model and a case study in which a double wishbone suspension system of an off-road vehicle is analyzed. In the case study, the handling optimization problem is solved by taking into account couplings with the suspension kinematics optimization problem. The solution of this coupled problem leads to the partial geometry definition of the suspension system mechanism.

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