The way a car cuts through the wind is an important factor in how its fuel economy is measured, and it’s up to aerodynamic engineers to reduce “wind drag” to boost those MPGs.
In the case of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, improved aerodynamics help the car achieve the best-ever fuel economy of a Chevy midsize car. It’s expected to achieve an estimated 26 mpg city and 38 mpg highway based on GM testing.
Designed with the customer in mind, the new Malibu balances style with aerodynamics.
“While car designers favor wheel flares, sharp creases and other details that add style to a car, what catches the eye may disrupt the airflow, creating unwanted air turbulence and increasing drag,” said John Bednarchik, Chevrolet Malibu lead aerodynamic engineer.
More than half of the power used at highway speeds is used to overcome air resistance. To increase efficiency, the Malibu LT and ECO models feature active aerodynamics that change body surface geometry. Among the many aerodynamic enablers is a pair of shutters in the lower grill that open or close automatically to increase airflow in certain conditions.
Engineers spent more than 400 hours in the wind tunnel testing the Malibu’s aerodynamics. The result? Shaving off 60 counts of wind drag, leaving the car with a rating of .29 Cd. Aerodynamic drag reduces the energy wasted overcoming pressure drag – due to the difference in pressure in front of and behind the vehicle – and improving overall efficiency.