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Gas 2 recently wrote an article which determined that through some very minor, simple design changes to a popular US product, one company could save its customers over a billion dollars, and reduce America’s fuel demand by 22.6 million gallons a year.
The idea to begin such an experiment came when Elon Musk suggested that in the future he planned to remove side mirrors from Tesla cars in order to reduce the aerodynamic drag, and improve the range for the electric cars. This theory will also work for traditional combustion engine vehicles; although in place of increasing the range it will improve the MPG.
Gas 2 decided to make its changes to the Ford F150 because it is the best-selling vehicle in the US, and would therefore have the largest overall impact on the country’s fuel consumption.
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The first minor change that is suggested is to lower the truck. Whilst this will affect the suspension and make the ride slightly firmer, it massively reduces the front area of the tires, and reduces the amount of air that flows across the rough underside of the truck; both of which will improve the aerodynamic efficiency, and therefore fuel economy, of the Ford.
A simple way to greatly improve the aerodynamic shape of the car is to follow Musk’s idea and replace the mirrors with cameras.
The Ford F150 before changes. (Gas 2)
Neil Blanchard, a commentator at Gas 2, calculated the MPG improvement that would be created by removing the mirrors:
“Replacing the optical mirrors with video mirrors reduces the aerodynamic drag two ways: it reduces the frontal area (about 1 square foot?) and also by reducing the coefficient of drag (Cd) because the shape is sleeker and generates less turbulence. The Model S has a Cd of 0.24 – and I’ll make a WAG on the frontal area; say 27 sq ft.
If that is the case, the CdA is 27 x 0.24 = 6.48 sq ft.
Early on, they (Tesla) mentioned a Cd of 0.22 for the Model S, and this may also be from smoother wheels, let’s say for the sake of argument that using video mirrors would yield a Cd of 0.23.
The revised frontal area is 26 sq ft and the revised CdA is 5.98 sq ft. which is a bit over 7.5% reduction.
I’ve been using video mirrors for more than four years, and I have been averaging more than 46MPG all year – it’s a Scion xA and the EPA Combined is 30MPG, so that is a 50%+ improvement.”
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The Ford F150 with the changes. (Gas 2)
The last change to make would be to cover up the huge air intake on the F150’s front bumper. Such a large vent us unnecessary, and messes up the air flow moving over the truck.
By making these simple, cheap changes the Gas 2 article estimates that the MGP of the Ford F150 could be improved by 10% (or at least 1MPG combined rating). Last year Ford sold 645,316 F-series trucks, and each one was driven an average of 12,000 miles over the year. By improving MGP by just 1, Ford could reduce gasoline consumption by 22.6 million gallons a year. If Ford managed to keep similar improvements for five consecutive years, they could save their customers 330 million gallons of fuel, which, at $4 a gallon, is over $1.2 billion.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…