By SolarCars | March 27, 2009
One need not be a hardcore Physics geek to understand the basic concepts of vehicle aerodynamics. In fact some of these basic concepts may even help you understand better how your car works and how you increase your fuel economy. Drag, lift, air density, drag coefficient – these are just some of the things you need to know if you want to get a better understanding of how vehicles are affected by aerodynamic forces.
Drag and lift are the the two aerodynamic forces that act on bodies traveling through the air – whether it be a truck, car, jet, or plane. For vehicles, drag is more important than lift, unless you like to drive fast in a race or exotic cars. Vehicles should avoid lift, which is why you have spoilers, wings, and air dams which all function to provide downward force and keep your car pressed down on the pavement.
Drag is the force that has the most impact on fuel economy and usage because this is the force that opposes the vehicle’s forward movement. It requires a lot of power to overcome drag. Sometimes, it even requires more power than engine and powertrain friction, rolling resistance, and other power consumers. As mentioned, if you want to lessen drag (and thus decrease fuel usage and consumption), don’t drive at speeds that are faster than necessary.
If you want to improve your car’s aerodynamics, you should avoid using wider wheels because these increase drag. Also, roll your windows up when speeding down the highway. Most of the vehicles today are designed for aerodynamic efficiency when the windows are rolled up.