Many car owners don’t know this but there are several factors affecting fuel consumption of your car. Some of the factors that play a role include; the weather, your style of driving, the weight your car constantly carries, the in-built gadgets in your car and then your vehicle shape and styling.
Have you seen the car models of the recent years? Have you ever pondered on their style? Why they look sleeker and cool with smooth contours? It is not just about the classic or elegant look, it is also about achieving a high performance.
Automobile makers with the recent years have come to understand the need for applying aerodynamics in manufacturing of cars. The knowledge that how a vehicle cuts through air has a drastic effect on the economy of fuel has made them opt for cars that can easily cut through the air with less resistance.
Do you know that studies have shown that fuel economy stands as one of the most important factor that car buyers consider before purchasing a car? But how does a car combine sportiness with fuel-efficiency? Is it possible for it to have it all?
1. How aerodynamics applied in car styling affect fuel economy
First, aerodynamics is the study of the flow of air around your car. The studies and lessons learnt from automobile aerodynamics are now being applied in the designing of trucks and passenger vehicles.
It is surprising however, to know that the driving force behind the application of aerodynamics in car manufacturing is not first fuel economy, rather it is to reduce drag: hence, the sleek and streamlined shape of the newer models. A smoother airflow reduces drag, which ultimately reduces the fuel you burn at a certain speed level.
Rather than trying to achieve better gas mileage figures by inventing expensive engine technologies, it is actually easier and cheaper to opt for improvement of the car in the area of aerodynamics.
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Car aerodynamics is set to reduce drag; a smoother airflow reduces drag and ultimately the amount of fuel consumed at certain speed
2. The coefficient of drag
The coefficient of drag (cd) is the measure of how slippery your car is as it cuts through air. It is usually published by car manufacturers to give you an idea of the efficiency level of your car. Although it does not directly tell you your vehicle’s aerodynamic drag, it can help calculate it.
Aerodynamic drag = drag coefficient (cd) × air density × frontal area × speed squared
Aside from the drag coefficient, frontal area is also dependent on the type and class of your vehicle e.g. a luxury saloon has a different frontal area from a supermini. As for the speed, you should note that aerodynamic drag exponentially increases as an object travels faster through the air.
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3. How car manufacturers improved fuel economy with aerodynamics
Enhancement in aerodynamics may not enormously reduce your fuel consumption just overnight but even the slightest change in a car’s design or style could reduce fuel consumption by 0.2mpg and this figure will definitely add up to something with continuous usage. Aerodynamics and weight reduction did increase the 2014 Ferrari Enzo by 30%.
Here are some of the changes car designers make to improve airflow around the car.
- Creating rounded edges at the front of the vehicle to reduce turbulence and drag
- Experiments with grill and fascia openings
- Wheel shapes that are specifically designed for using aerodynamics
- Installing rear spoilers to reduce lift
- Creating side skirts for airflow regulation beneath the car
- Adjusting the angle of the rear window and adjusting the air dam to reduce drag beneath the car
- Placing mini-spoilers (spats) in the front tyres
- Incorporating belly pans for a smooth flow of air around the vehicle
Coefficient of drag: Drag force can either be a help or a hindrance depending on the automotive application
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In conclusion, the impact of aerodynamics to air drag and fuel economy is the reason why features like belly pans and spoilers are now incorporated in car productions. It is for the same reason that GM and Ford designed the radiator shutters to shut off airflow through car radiators when it is not necessarily needed. It is what car brand’s like the Chevrolet Volt plan to achieve when the designed the latest line-up with a different detail though similar look to the previous one. It is simply the idea behind the varying styling features across a broad range of vehicles.