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How Aerodynamics Affects Your Car's Behavior

How Aerodynamics Affects Your Car's Behavior

Amid a battle for fuel efficiency, manufacturers spend millions on how the shape of your vehicle can eek out every mile per gallon possible. 

Looking at newer cars on the road, one may wonder why so many look similar. Each year competing companies look within and without to determine how to balance aesthetics and economy. Aerodynamic engineers and vehicle designers don't always get along, but in the end both tend to compromise and find something both handsome and efficient. 

Aerodynamic efficiency must be taken into account for the whole of a vehicle, as well. The parts you can see are only half of the equation. How the air flows under the car is just as important as how it flows over. Each part must be positioned and tested as well. The grill, headlights, and fender shape can drastically affect performance on other parts of the vehicle. This butterfly effect can only be tested in measurable conditions within large scale facilities. A specially made wind tunnel is a must. By adding the right mixture of vapor to the wind generated, engineers can get a visual on how their vehicle is performing. This all starts with math, of course. Before machining parts, most of the work is already done with an applied formula that takes into account a multitude of variables. 

After all the time, money, and effort spent, what can you expect as far as results? The answer is complicated, but on average you're probably looking at about 1 to 2 miles per gallon. This might not seem like a lot, but when it comes down annual spending it can add up fast. Given a high average of 20,000 miles driven per year at a price of $3.25 per gallon, a 2 mpg difference equals $136.50 in annual savings. That's about three and a half full tanks per year from a small 2 mpg difference.

As the field of aerodynamics continues to make advancements, we can expect to see more drastic changes to the shape of vehicles. This leads one to wonder, what exactly is the optimal shape for a car, and will it be something you want to own? 

Enjoy the article? Let us know! At Atlas Body Shop of San Antonio TX we strive to provide useful and relevant content.

Written By: Todd Hendrickson
Source: Popular Mechanics

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