Automobile drag coefficient
The drag coefficient is a common measure in automotive design as it pertains to aerodynamics. Drag is a force that acts parallel and in the same direction as the airflow. The drag coefficient of an automobile impacts the way the automobile passes through the surrounding air. When automobile companies design a new vehicle they take into consideration the automobile drag coefficient in addition to the other performance characteristics. Aerodynamic drag increases with the square of speed; therefore it becomes critically important at higher speeds. Reducing the drag coefficient in an automobile improves the performance of the vehicle as it pertains to speed and fuel efficiency. There are many different ways to reduce the drag of a vehicle. A common way to measure the drag of the vehicle is through the drag area.
- 1 Reducing drag
- 2 Deletion
- 3 Fabrication
- 4 Typical drag coefficients
- 5 Drag area
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The reduction of drag in road vehicles has led to increases in the top speed of the vehicle and the vehicle's fuel efficiency, as well as many other performance characteristics, such as handling and acceleration. The two main factors that impact drag are the frontal area of the vehicle and the drag coefficient. The drag coefficient is a unit-less value that denotes how much an object resists movement through a fluid such as water or air. A potential complication of altering a vehicle's aerodynamics is that it may cause the vehicle to get too much lift. Lift is an aerodynamic force that flows perpendicular to the airflow around the body of the vehicle. Too much lift can cause the vehicle to lose road traction which can be very unsafe. Lowering the drag coefficient comes from streamlining the exterior body of the vehicle. Streamlining the body requires assumptions about the surrounding airspeed and characteristic use of the vehicle.
For high speed applications near or above the speed of sound, a Sears-Haack body, is an idealized shape that minimizes wave drag, which is the drag associated with supersonic shock waves. This shape essentially consists of an elongated tube with pointed ends. This shape is seen commonly in vehicles attempting to break speed and efficiency records, such as the North American Eagle.
The deletion of parts on a vehicle is an easy way for designers and vehicle owners to reduce the drag of the vehicle with little cost and effort. Deletion can be as simple as removing an aftermarket part, or part that has been installed on the vehicle after production, or having to modify and remove an OEM part, meaning any part of the vehicle that was originally manufactured on the vehicle. Most production sports cars and high efficiency vehicles come standard with many of these deletions in order to be competitive in the automotive and race market, while others choose to keep these drag-increasing aspects of the vehicle for their visual aspects, or to fit the typical uses of their customer base.
A roof rack is a common trait on many SUV and station wagon vehicles. While roof racks are very useful in carrying extra storage on a vehicle, they also increase the frontal area of the vehicle and increase the drag coefficient. This is because as the air flows over the top of the vehicle, following the smooth lines of the hood and windshield, then collides with the roof rack and causes turbulence. The removal of this part has led to increases in fuel efficiency in several studies.
Mudflaps are now rarely specified as standard on production cars as they impact upon the clean airflow around the vehicle. For larger vehicles such as trucks, mud flaps are still important for their control of spray, and in 2010 a new version of the mud flap was introduced that has been shown to create significantly less aerodynamic drag than standard mud flaps.
A rear spoiler usually comes standard in most sports vehicles and resembles the shape of a raised wing in the rear of the vehicle. The main purpose to the inclusion of a rear spoiler in a vehicles design is to reduce lift, therefore increasing stability at higher speeds. In order to achieve the lowest possible drag, air must flow around the streamlined body of the vehicle without coming into contact with any areas of possible turbulence. A rear spoiler design that stands off the rear deck lid will increase downforce, reducing lift at high speeds while incurring a drag penalty. Flat spoilers, possibly angled slightly downward may reduce turbulence and thereby reduces the coefficient of drag. Some cars now feature automatically adjustable rear spoilers, so at lower speed the impact on drag is reduced when the benefits of reduced lift are not required.
Side mirrors both increase the frontal area of the vehicle and increase the coefficient of drag since they protrude from the side of the vehicle. In order to decrease the impact that side mirrors have on the drag of the vehicle the side mirrors can be replaced with smaller mirrors or mirrors with a different shape. Several concept cars of the 2010s are replacing mirrors with tiny cameras but this option is not common for production cars because most countries require side mirrors.
While they do not have the biggest impact on the drag coefficient due to their small size, radio antennas commonly found protruding from the front of the vehicle can be relocated and changed in design to rid the car of this added drag. The most common replacement for the standard car antenna is the shark fin antenna found in most high efficiency vehicles.
The effect that windshield wipers have on a vehicles airflow varies between vehicles; however, they are often omitted from race vehicles and high efficiency concepts in order to maintain the smallest coefficient of drag as possible. A much more common option is to replace the windshield wipers with lower profile wipers, or to only remove the windshield wiper on the passenger side of the vehicle, and even fabricate a deflector to deflect the air up and over the wipers.
The application of new parts and concepts onto the vehicle design are easier to include when in the design stage of a vehicle, rather than in aftermarket (automotive) parts, however, the fabrication of these parts assists in the streamlining of the vehicle and can help greatly reduce the drag of the vehicle. Most vehicles with very low drag coefficients, such as race cars and high efficiency concept cars, apply these ideas to their design.
When air flows around the wheel wells it gets disturbed by the rims of the vehicles, and forms an area of turbulence around the wheel. In order for the air to flow smoother around the wheel well smooth wheel covers are often applied. Smooth wheel covers are hub caps with no holes in them for air to pass through. This design reduces drag, however, it may cause the brakes to heat up quicker because the covers prevent airflow around the brake system. This is why this modification is more commonly seen with high efficiency vehicles, rather than sports cars or racing vehicles.
Partial grille block
The front grille of a vehicle is used to direct air directly into the engine compartment. In a streamlined design the air flows around the vehicle rather than through; however, the grille of a vehicle redirects airflow from around the vehicle to through the vehicle, which then increases the drag. In order to reduce this impact a grille block is often used. A grille block covers up a portion, or the entirety of the front grille of a vehicle. In most high efficiency models or vehicles with low drag coefficients there will be a very small grille already built into the design, therefore a grille block is unneeded. The grille in most production vehicles is built generally to have as much air flowing into the engine in order to keep it from overheating. But most commonly there is too much airflow into the engine, preventing it from warming up in a timely manner, so a grille block is used to increase engine performance and reduce the vehicle's drag.
The underside of a vehicle often traps air in various places and adds turbulence around the vehicle. In most racing vehicles this is eliminated by covering the entire underside of the vehicle in what is called an under tray. This tray prevents any air from becoming trapped under the vehicle and reduces drag.
Fender skirts are often made as extensions of the body panels of the vehicles and cover the entire wheel wells. Much like smooth wheel covers this modification reduces the drag of the vehicle by preventing any air from becoming trapped in the wheel well and assists in streamlining the body of the vehicle. Fender skirts are more commonly found on the rear wheel wells of a vehicle because the tires do not turn and the design is much simpler. This is commonly seen in vehicles such as the Honda Insight. Front fender skirts have the same effect on reducing drag as the rear wheel skirts, but must be further offset from the body in order to compensate for the tire sticking out from the body of the vehicle as turns are made.
Modified front bumper
The front bumper is the first part of the vehicle that the air must flow around. Therefore, it plays a crucial role in reducing drag. In order to preserve the teardrop shape of the vehicle a front air dam is often used. A front air dam extends from the very front of the vehicle down to the lowest part of the vehicle. It does this to direct airflow around the vehicle rather than through it. Contoured deflectors, or tire spats, are often made as part of the front bumper in order to direct airflow around the tire without having any increase to the outward flow. With the Sears-Haack body body being the best possible aerodynamic shape, the modifications of the front bumper would be ideal to mimic the front of this shape; however, adjustments must be made out of practicality and legality, and more often a tear drop shape is formed by the front of the vehicle, such as in the Dymaxion car.
Boattails and Kammbacks
A boattail can greatly reduce a vehicle's total drag. Boattails create a teardrop shape that will give the vehicle a more streamlined profile, reducing the occurrence of drag inducing flow separation. A kammback is a truncated boattail. It is created as an extension of the rear of the vehicle, moving the rear backward at a slight angle toward the bumper of the car. This can reduce drag as well but a boattail would reduce the vehicles drag more. Nonetheless, for practical and style reasons, a kammback is more commonly seen in racing, high efficiency vehicles, and trucking.
Typical drag coefficients
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2013)|
The average modern automobile achieves a drag coefficient of between 0.30 and 0.35. SUVs, with their typically boxy shapes, typically achieve a Cd of 0.35–0.45. The drag coefficient of a vehicle is impacted by the shape of body of the vehicle. Various other characteristics impact the coefficient of drag as well, and are taken into account in these examples. Some sports cars have a surprisingly high value for a drag coefficient, but this is to compensate for the amount of lift the vehicle generates, while others use aerodynamics to their advantage to gain speed and have much lower coefficients of drag.
While designers pay attention to the overall shape of the automobile, they also bear in mind that reducing the frontal area of the shape helps reduce the drag. The combination of drag coefficient and area - drag area - is represented as CdA (or CxA), a multiplication of the Cd value by the area.
The term drag area derives from aerodynamics, where it is the product of some reference area (such as cross-sectional area, total surface area, or similar) and the drag coefficient. In 2003, Car and Driver magazine adopted this metric as a more intuitive way to compare the aerodynamic efficiency of various automobiles.
Average full-size passenger cars have a drag area of roughly 8.50 sq ft (0.790 m2). Reported drag areas range from the 1999 Honda Insight at 5.1 sq ft (0.47 m2) to the 2003 Hummer H2 at 26.5 sq ft (2.46 m2). The drag area of a bicycle is also in the range of 6.5–7.5 sq ft (0.60–0.70 m2).
|CdA sqft||CdA m2||Automobile model|
|2.50 sq ft||0.232 m2||1986 Twike|
|5.00 sq ft||0.465 m2||2005 Mercedes-Benz Bionic|
|2.69 sq ft||0.250 m2||2009 Loremo|
|3.00 sq ft||0.279 m2||2011 Volkswagen XL1|
|3.95 sq ft||0.367 m2||1996 GM EV1|
|5.10 sq ft||0.474 m2||1999 Honda Insight|
|5.40 sq ft||0.502 m2||1989 Opel Calibra|
|5.70 sq ft||0.530 m2||1985 Subaru Alcyone/XT/Vortex|
|5.71 sq ft||0.530 m2||1990 Honda CR-X Si|
|5.74 sq ft||0.533 m2||2002 Acura NSX|
|5.76 sq ft||0.535 m2||1968 Toyota 2000GT|
|5.80 sq ft||0.539 m2||1986 Toyota MR2|
|5.81 sq ft||0.540 m2||1989 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX|
|5.86 sq ft||0.544 m2||2001 Audi A2 1.2 TDI 3L|
|5.88 sq ft||0.546 m2||1990 Nissan 240SX / 200SX / 180SX|
|5.92 sq ft||0.550 m2||1994 Porsche 911 Speedster|
|5.95 sq ft||0.553 m2||1990 Mazda RX7|
|6.00 sq ft||0.557 m2||1992 Subaru SVX|
|6.00 sq ft||0.557 m2||1970 Lamborghini Miura|
|6.08 sq ft||0.565 m2||2008 Nissan GTR|
|6.13 sq ft||0.569 m2||1991 Acura NSX|
|6.17 sq ft||0.573 m2||1995 Lamborghini Diablo|
|6.24 sq ft||0.580 m2||2004 Toyota Prius|
|6.27 sq ft||0.583 m2||1986 Porsche 911 Carrera|
|6.27 sq ft||0.583 m2||1992 Chevrolet Corvette|
|6.35 sq ft||0.590 m2||1999 Lotus Elise|
|6.37 sq ft||0.592 m2||2000 Vauxhall VX220 N/A|
|6.40 sq ft||0.595 m2||1990 Lotus Esprit|
|6.41 sq ft||0.596 m2||2003 Smart Roadster Coupé|
|6.54 sq ft||0.608 m2||1991 Saturn Sports Coupe|
|6.57 sq ft||0.610 m2||1985 Chevrolet Corvette|
|6.63 sq ft||0.616 m2||2001 Audi A2|
|6.66 sq ft||0.619 m2||1996 Citroën Saxo|
|6.77 sq ft||0.629 m2||1995 BMW M3|
|6.79 sq ft||0.631 m2||1993 Toyota Corolla DX|
|6.80 sq ft||0.632 m2||2007 BMW 335i Coupe|
|6.81 sq ft||0.633 m2||1991 Subaru Legacy|
|6.90 sq ft||0.641 m2||1993 Saturn Wagon|
|6.93 sq ft||0.644 m2||1982 Delorean DMC-12|
|6.94 sq ft||0.645 m2||2003 Smart Roadster|
|6.96 sq ft||0.647 m2||1988 Porsche 944 S|
|6.96 sq ft||0.647 m2||1995 Chevrolet Lumina LS|
|7.02 sq ft||0.652 m2||1992 BMW 325I|
|7.04 sq ft||0.654 m2||1991 Honda Civic EX|
|7.06 sq ft||0.656 m2||2004 Vauxhall VX220 Turbo|
|7.10 sq ft||0.660 m2||1995 Saab 900|
|7.11 sq ft||0.661 m2||1991 Ford Thunderbird LX|
|7.14 sq ft||0.663 m2||1995 Subaru Legacy L|
|7.20 sq ft||0.669 m2||1995 Nissan Maxima GLE|
|7.34 sq ft||0.682 m2||2001 Honda Civic|
|7.39 sq ft||0.687 m2||1994 Honda Accord EX|
|7.48 sq ft||0.695 m2||1993 Chevrolet Camaro Z28|
|7.57 sq ft||0.703 m2||1992 Toyota Camry|
|7.69 sq ft||0.714 m2||1994 Chrysler LHS|
|7.72 sq ft||0.717 m2||1993 Subaru Impreza|
|8.02 sq ft||0.745 m2||2005 Bugatti Veyron|
|8.70 sq ft||0.808 m2||1990 Volvo 740 Turbo|
|8.70 sq ft||0.808 m2||1992 Ford Crown Victoria|
|8.71 sq ft||0.809 m2||1991 Buick LeSabre Limited|
|9.54 sq ft||0.886 m2||1992 Chevrolet Caprice Wagon|
|10.7 sq ft||0.99 m2||1992 Chevrolet Blazer|
|11.6 sq ft||1.08 m2||2005 Ford Escape Hybrid|
|11.7 sq ft||1.09 m2||1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee|
|12.2 sq ft||1.13 m2||1949 Nash Airflyte|
|16.8 sq ft||1.56 m2||2006 Hummer H3|
|17.4 sq ft||1.62 m2||1995 Land Rover Discovery|
|26.5 sq ft||2.46 m2||2003 Hummer H2|
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