There's been quite a bit of promotion from Ford in regard to its new aluminum 2015 F-150; the most recent press release details how aerodynamic the new half-ton entry will be, especially when compared to the other segment players. Naturally, as fuel prices climb and all the truckmakers try to squeeze out every bit of fuel economy possible from their full-size trucks, technology and aerodynamics will be key.
The trick is how to keep a pickup truck looking rugged and capable without softening the exterior shape too much (i.e., making it it look too soft or egg-shaped) while improving aerodynamics. The new F-150 looks like it's found a good balance between the two where practically every square inch of the truck, from the bumpers to the window seals, has been designed to make air move around the truck instead of catching on exterior parts to create drag.
The new F-150 will be packed with new technology and construction processes to make its new look more slippery as it moves through the air; combined with new powertrains and lighter body panels, this will certainly help give the new Ford truck some likely impressive EPA fuel rating numbers.
Just some of the new ways engineers have made this the most aerodynamically efficient F-150 ever include a flush-mounted windshield (which eliminates the need for heavy molding strips), a tailgate top that acts as a spoiler to smooth air flow, a cargo box that is narrower than the cab to reduce rear cab turbulence, and a duct under the headlight that moves air into the wheelwell to minimize air push.
Although we don't have the new F-150's coefficient of drag (we're told that number will be released after the Ford half-ton completes EPA fuel economy certification), the 2014 Ram number is 0.360 for its regular-cab 4x2 and the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab is 0.410. All 4x2 Toyota Tundras have a 0.370, while all their 4x4s have a 0.380 Cd.
It should also be noted that there is no regulated, agreed-upon standards or procedures that aerodynamics engineers must follow when testing in a wind tunnel. The biggest challenge, as you might imagine, is how to deal with a pickup's inherently large front area and how to both move air around and into the engine compartment.
Going forward, we're guessing aerodynamic shapes will become an increasingly important part of every truckmaker's desire to make its vehicles more fuel efficient, but whether that means our pickup trucks will get softer and rounder remains to be seen. The next Nissan Titan could give us a hint of how daring truck designers are willing to be.
To read Ford's most recent 2015 Ford F-150 press release, click here.