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(Wind) Tunnel Vision: New Ford Ranger Gets Aero Design

Ford Ranger Wildtrak

Ford Ranger Wildtrak

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I know that we may not be seeing the next-generation Ford Ranger in the States any time soon, but when I hear that a pickup truck is being designed with Formula One engineers in a wind tunnel, I figure other truck guys would want to know about it.

None of us expects a pickup to “slice through the air cleaner” as Ford said in its press release on the new Ranger, but the company claims the work being done with veteran circuit-racing aerodynamicists Thorsten Maertens and Neil Lewington is making the truck more fuel-efficient.

The engineers use the same simulation software as is being utilized in Formula One racecar design. The teams reportedly looked at more than 1,000 situations to arrive at the shape of the new Ranger.

Obviously, with four-wheel-drive models, the height of the vehicle adds to the challenge because the taller the vehicle, the more drag it creates. The drag coefficient is used to determine the car or truck’s resistance to the air it passes through. A high number means that the engine works harder and burns more fuel.

A joint effort between designers and the aerodynamicists shaved the 2012 Ranger’s drag coefficient to 0.40. This was accomplished by tapering the truck’s C-pillars and by utilizing a spoiler on top of the tailgate.

Ford says that it saved the most drag by adding a front air dam that sent more air over and around the Ranger instead of under it. The manufacturer claims a seven-percent reduction. Side benefits included a more stable ride and more efficient engine cooling.

Using computational models also translates into faster delivery of a final design. The aerodynamics team can run up to 50 tests in two weeks, which means changes to the design can be made more quickly to arrive at the final product in a shorter time. The streamlined design process helped designers advance the Ranger’s fuel economy further than they thought they originally could. All I know is that a pickup truck designed with wind-tunnel technology sounds pretty cool.

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