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Aerodynamically speaking

When you are talking about a car’s aerodynamics, you are talking about the car’s design.  You are also talking about how easily the car’s bulk and total surface area can slip through the air particles.  Air friction causes drag on a car’s exterior while it moves through the air.  The less aerodynamic a car’s design is, the more drag the air particles will have on the car’s exterior surface.  A car’s drag coefficient expresses this friction.  Obviously, a car with a lower value of drag coefficient, the slipperier it is through air. The drag coefficient is always associated with a particular surface area.  

Well then: I wonder what the most aerodynamic car is in the world.  Aerodynamics is hugely important to keeping your fuel bill down.  And because aerodynamics has so much to do with fuel consumption, this is such an important area for any automobile design team member. 

Think about the cars that you look at every day.  Think about the car that you drive.  How do you think they would compare to the likes of the 2009 Mercedes Benz E Class Coupe which has a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.24.  This E Class Coupe is exceptionally slippery through the air.  The Honda Insight combines its Cd of 0.25 with a hybrid motor.  The result being that the Insight is one of the world’s most fuel efficient cars.  And I’m sure that you’ve heard of the Toyota Prius.  The Prius has a Cd of 0.26, and is also a hybrid vehicle.  Obviously, the Merc’s bigger performance engine lets the fuel consumption get away a bit.  The lower mass – as well as the hybrid engines – favour the two hybrids -making them exceptionally fuel economic.  Both the hybrid cars manage well under 4 litres/100 km fuel consumption.

Now… I’ve found what I was looking for.  The most aerodynamic car ever produced in the world was the General Motors EV1, with a Cd of 0.195.  Below is a picture of what the car looks like.  Not totally practical, but efficient none the less.

Looking at some of the sweet exterior designs that a number of production cars are coming out with these days – Audi’s TT, Alfa Romeo’s Brera, the Mazda 6 range and Peugeot’s range of cars – I wonder how their drag coefficient rates. 

Enzo Ferrari once said that “aerodynamics is for people who can’t build engines”.  However, aerodynamics is paramount today.  Car manufacturers have a lot on their plates at the moment:  A world recession, India’s and China’s ever increasing presence in the modern automobile world, fuel price rises and consumers’ fickle tastes.  It doesn’t make an automobile manufacturer’s life easy.  Handling all of these issues at once must be a difficult task.  But, we can do our bit.  How about considering a car’s fuel economy and drag coefficient next time you come to purchasing a new car.