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Aerodynamics Capabilities Significantly Impact Fuel Economy
General Motors aerodynamics capabilities
significantly contributed to the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoes
industry leading fuel economy. Using sophisticated computer-based
tools and its state-of-the-art laboratory testing expertise, GM
aerodynamics engineers have achieved the lowest aerodynamic drag
of any full-size SUV in the world.
Aerodynamic drag accounts for
approximately 20 percent of the energy consumed in an average
vehicle, directly impacting vehicle fuel efficiency. GM
aerodynamics engineers regularly are applying their expertise to
address the opportunity to improve the fuel economy of all GM
vehicles. In fact, GM offers more fuel efficient vehicles than
any other manufacturer, in part due to its aerodynamic
GMs aerodynamics laboratory,
located at the technical center in Warren, Mich., is the center
of expertise for optimizing the impact of airflow. In addition to
fuel economy, range, emissions, and acceleration are all affected
by wind resistance, or aerodynamic drag. The cooling of
components such as radiators and brakes are affected by airflow,
as is cornering capability, crosswind response, directional
stability and on-center handling. GMs aero lab allows for
the testing and development of each of these characteristics.
Aerodynamics development begins
with a 1/3-scale model where basic shape and major features are
defined. The model includes a highly detailed underbody and
engine compartment. Radiator and under hood cooling flow is
developed with computational fluid dynamic models.
Simultaneously, computation development takes place to determine
aerodynamic drag of design alternatives. Development continues
with full-scale models, where shape is refined and optimized for
low wind noise. The development process concludes with a vehicle
prototype validation of the math-based analysis and physical
The 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe is one of
the latest graduates of the aero lab. Engineers focused on the
front and rear of the vehicle, the underbody, and mirrors to
reduce drag by eight percent over the 2005 Tahoe.
Everyone on the aerodynamics
team is deeply committed to improving the fuel efficiency of
every vehicle we develop, said Max Schenkel, GM North
America Engineering aerodynamics technical fellow. We have
continuously improved the aerodynamics of the Chevrolet Tahoe
over the last several years and remain committed to maintaining
its aerodynamics leadership.
Founded in the late 1970s, GMs
aerodynamics laboratory was built in response to fuel shortages
of that time and the introduction of Corporate Average Fuel
Economy (CAFÉ) standards. Test operations began in 1980 with
several production vehicle tests that benchmarked the wind tunnels
performance against other facilities. All new GM vehicles for the
North American market have been developed using the lab. Today,
the experimental work in the aero lab is supplemented by
computational fluid dynamics analysis. The combination of the two
testing operations provides a powerful tool to improve
aerodynamics of future GM vehicles.
Wind speed in the tunnel can reach
up to more than 120 miles-per-hour. Real-time data acquisition
and display systems measure forces and moments, airflow
velocities, pressures, temperatures and wind noise.
In addition to helping GM create
todays most fuel efficient vehicles, wind tunnel testing
has provided a competitive advantage for GM racing vehicles.
Several GM sponsored teams also have taken advantage of the wind
tunnel, including America s Cup challengers, Sunrayce solar
cars, bicycle racers, the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and the Canadian
Alpine Ski Team.
The GM Aerodynamics Laboratory
celebrated 25 years of wind tunnel test operations in August. The
lab was the first full-scale automotive wind tunnel built in
North America and remains the largest wind tunnel in the world
dedicated to automotive testing.