How do aerodynamics affect your car?

April 05 2018

Aerodynamics isn't just a concern for race cars. Most cars are designed with air flow in mind -- even minivans and sedans. But why does aero matter for grocery getters?

Improved aerodynamics means better gas mileage
A vehicle's shape determines how air will move around it -- the easier it is for air to flow around a car's surface, the less drag is created when it's in motion. Drag is the force that opposes a car (or plane, or boat) in motion. It increases with the area and speed of the car -- so larger or faster moving vehicles have to contend with more force opposition.

Engineers take advantage of physics, using aerodynamic design to reduce drag -- thus, reducing fuel consumption. In an effort to make cars as fuel-efficient as possible, automakers round car edges, install belly pans and more.

How else do aerodynamics impact car performance?

  • Noise reduction: The way parts (like windshield wipers, sunroofs, door handles and side mirrors) are designed affects the amount of noise you hear inside the vehicle.
  • Grip and stability: The faster air can pass over the vehicle's surface, the more downforce is created. This is different from mechanical grip, which depends on the car's mass, tires and suspension.

Grip and downforce may not sound like things that apply to ordinary cars, but they are a factor in every drive you take, so engineers are constantly addressing things like grip and drag. The result of all this science is that you get a quiet, efficient vehicle that's easier and more fun to drive.


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