Thursday, January 08, 2009

Future trends: active aerodynamics

One of the recent good news on future automotive trends is that the technical bits will be gaining more importance. Stuff like engine efficiency, hybrid powertrains or weight reduction are putting the engineering first again. This article discusses a future trend that is active aerodynamics.

Active aerodynamics is related to the use of moving surfaces or parts to change the aerodynamic behaviour of a vehicle. The most obvious example is the retractable spoilers that you can find in a number of sports cars (Audi TT, for example). Another recent, less famous but equally important application is found on a number of BMW cars with the Efficient Dynamics package. It’s the air flaps at the front that regulate air flow to the engine. These close to reduce drag if engine cooling is not needed.

Future applications might include the referred air flaps that will for sure be copied by other manufacturers. But also other applications seeking to reduce drag at higher speeds, for example the image below shows a proposal by Saab to improve the aerodynamic performance of a hatchback using an extending rear parcel. Such feature would ruin the design of the car but since it moves only at higher speeds it gets more manageable.

The little black deflector shown below on a Citroen C4 Picasso is another example of candidate for becoming an active surface. Reports indicate that such feature could be part of a rear light module including the mechanism for surface actuation. Future cars incorporating possibly this or other examples of active aerodynamics are expected from different manufacturers although one does not have to guess a lot to preview BMW to be in the leadership. As of today their Efficient Dynamics package is still the undisputed reference in fuel consumption and emissions with several technical features (including the referred air flaps) yet to be found in the competition.

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