GM Wind Tunnel Turns 30
It all began unfolding not so long ago. In 1980, to be more precise, when GM's Aerodynamics Laboratory (read wind tunnel) became operational. Still the largest facility of its type used for automotive design, the wind tunnel helped improve the vehicles' aerodynamics, according to GM, by 25 percent since 1980. Converted into fuel saved, that means about two to three miles per gallon.
“There are three ways to improve fuel economy – reducing vehicle weight, improving powertrain efficiency, and improving aerodynamics,” Charlie Klein, GM director of Mass, Energy and Aerodynamics said in a statement. “Of the three, aerodynamics is often the most cost effective way to improve efficiency.”
The most recently-tested car in the wind tunnel, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, is said to have shaved 10 percent off its drag coefficient, a key element which helps the car achieve the 40 miles per gallon highway consumption figure. The Volt also benefited from wind tunnel testing.
“The Cruze Eco demonstrates how aerodynamics will be increasingly important, as consumers and automakers look to increase their fuel efficiency,” Max Schenkel, aerodynamics technical engineer added.
“Aerodynamics also play a critical role in developing electric vehicles, like the Chevrolet Volt, as better aerodynamics delivers more miles per battery charge. We expect the next 10 years likely will be the most innovative era in road vehicle aerodynamics.”