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Air Curtain Technology Helps With the Ford F-150’s Fuel Efficiency

Box-shaped pickup truck isn't a byword for aerodynamics. As many manufacturers are out there, there are just as many solutions to help with the airflow. In Ford’s case, the thirteenth-generation F-150 uses air curtains to minimize wind turbulence and improve on the pickup’s fuel efficiency.
Ford F-150 air curtain technology 1 photo
Marketed as the most aerodynamically efficient F-150 ever, the light-duty workhorse makes use of aero curtains. Also dubbed air curtains, these contraptions reduce wind drag and guide the airflow across the front wheels. The air curtain tech first debuted on the S550-gen Mustang and, as you can see in the adjacent video demonstration, it’s not a marketing stunt.

By allowing air to flow through a vent located underneath the headlamps then go out around the wheel, airflow becomes a smoother affair. Using air to manage airflow also translates to reduced aerodynamic drag when traveling at speed and 26 mpg highway for the 2.7-liter V6-engined Ford F-150 light-duty truck.

“With the new F-150, an extensive amount of time was spent running aerodynamic simulations and doing wind tunnel tests,” explains Rob Lietz, Ford technical expert in applied computational fluid dynamics. “Major advances in our computational fluid dynamics capability let us quickly see how we could improve airflow while maintaining the tough truck looks expected from F-150.”

Enclosing the wheels in skirts wasn’t a practical or attractive solution to optimize the airflow, which is why Lietz’ team got together and helped with designing the air curtain system. It starts with horizontal slots underneath the headlamps that channel the air from the front of the truck through ducting to openings in the wheel wells. Put simply, the resulting wall of high-speed airflow works much like a skirt to reduce drag.

That’s not all though. Other Ford F-150 aerodynamic improvements include a flush-mounted windshield that eliminates the need for molding. The tailgate top designed to act as a spoiler, the cargo box that's narrower than the cab, and angled taillamp corners helped the 2.7-liter V6-engined F-150 earn its position as the most fuel-efficient gasoline truck in its segment.


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