Rocket Fuel

Tech Talk v46 – Aerodynamic Styling: Eye Catching and Practical

Aerodynamic Styling: Eye Catching and Practical

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One look at the Elio and it’s obvious the vehicle is completely different than anything on the market today. The unique body style turns heads and is part of the “wow” factor that has helped grow our fan base. As cool as our fans find the design, it’s based on practicality. In fact, Paul Elio talks about the vehicle’s design often – but in very practical terms.

“Half the width means we move half the air” is one of Paul’s favorite quotes for explaining why the vehicle has such a one-of-a-kind body style. Cutting down wind resistance is one of the keys to reaching our goal of up to 84 MPG on the highway. It’s so important, we thought it would be a good idea to explain some of the basics of vehicle aerodynamics in this week’s Tech Talk.

Aerodynamics, according to NASA, is the study of forces and the resulting motion of objects through the air. Think about taking a walk into a brisk wind. You can feel the wind hit your face and you might even notice that the wind is slowing you down. In technical terms, this is known drag. Drag (according to the smart folks at NASA) is a mechanical force generated by a solid object moving through air.

For vehicles, the faster they move, the more drag is generated. And, drag is bad for fuel economy.

Here’s an example of how it works. Remember Jerry Rice, the legendary wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers? One of his favorite training techniques was to strap on a parachute and run as fast as he could. The parachute created more drag, which meant he had to work harder to generate speed. Take off the parachute and he can easily cut through the wind, using less energy to reach a higher speed.

That’s great when you are training to be a world class athlete. The extra drag helps you build muscle. But, for a vehicle, all it means is you need to burn extra fuel. The key to reducing drag is to design a vehicle that moves less wind.

Think of that parachute as a metaphor for design flaws in the auto industry. Anything that catches wind in a less than optimum manner creates drag. Think about a big, boxy Sport Utility Vehicle, for example. In addition to the fact that the vehicle is heavier, its boxy shape catches the wind, so it takes more power to propel through the air.

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The Elio’s width, the curved front end and roof, the wheel covers and the smooth surfaces on the side help the vehicle cut through the air with great efficiency. Of course, we are constantly working with our supplier team to find even more subtle changes to make the vehicle even more aerodynamic – an effort that will continue until we roll off the line.

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