Fine-Tuned Designs Help Truckmakers Smooth Air, Increase MPGs

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In the highly competitive world of light-duty fuel economy and extended-range tech, every car and truck manufacturer is trying to squeeze as many miles or tenth-of-a-mile per gallon out of their vehicles. In fact, Ford engineers were so obsessed they found quite a few ways to smooth out turbulent air; some of which may seem to be ridiculously small.

The truth is that all the full-size pickup truckmakers have sculpted and tuned their half-tons to move just the right amount of air to exactly the right places to cancel out and/or minimize any turbulence created.

One of the most difficult areas to smooth air around is moving tires and wheels, but Ford has come up with a clever way to keep the air flowing moving past the rubber so efficiently that it actually helped improve fuel economy on the new F-150. In this case, instead of trying to block all the frontal air above and below the flat face of the grille (like the previous F-150 did), Ford, due to a lot of time in its wind tunnel, found that by including some horizontal slots in between the headlights and bumper it was able to channel the air around the tires to the truck's sides. In the final analysis, this proved to offer much less drag than sealing up the gap completely.

Other small details in design and aerodynamics that benefited the vehicle's overall aero rating include a flush-mounted windshield that doesn't require molding (molding is notorious for grabbing wind), a tailgate with a small lip on top, narrowing the cargo box a hair on all models, taillights cut at precise angles and side mirrors (both standard and towing) with air-guiding grooves near the edges.

All the truckmakers have upped their fuel-efficiency games as fuel prices have become just one of the unknown variables in the total cost of pickup truck ownership. Ram is still the overall mpg champion with its Ram 1500 EcoDiesel with an EPA rating of 29 mpg highway, but Ford offers three efficient V-6 engines in its F-150 lineup. Both the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150 offer one V-8 engine option, which are most often chosen by those who tow.

Manufacturer images

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Not just bumper, but headlights as well.
Great engineering. Who needs headlights in heavy rain during night? Nobody drives f150 in these conditions . Ecoboost could get chocked and owners are aware of this anyway. Let's make light truck which has great numbers on the paper, but it can't tow heavy trailer, because it would be pushed around or end up in the ditch in the crosswind , it's not for offroading, because of shortened leafs and it might go to limp mode, because of intercooler.
Why do I have a feeling, that each department works only at their objective, but they don't work together?
F150 is paper champ.

I'm confused. What is Svina talking about?


He's a Ram fan boy.

I am talking about new F150. Did you get it yet?

Not sure what Svina is talking about. He'sike a deer in the headlight.

You can only squeeze so much efficiency from a brick. I do think we have reached a zenith in this area. Attempting to achieve more from a brick will be extremely expensive or impact the pickups capability.

So, a truer aerodynamic shape will need to be investigated. As I pointed out weight reduction didn't bear the fruits expected. The new 2015 aluminium Ford F-150 is a prime example of this. The weight reductions in real life only provided around a 1mpg gain.

| please tell us more about how great you are..

He is so funny I've driving mine in hard rain while pulling a backhoe on the interest with no problem. Love my ecoboost

It always makes me chuckle, when ford horde has no argument and play stupid. There is also possibility, they don't play.

I don't think English is Svina's first language.

I don't think so either. That's some kind of pig Latin. Can't expect much more from a ram turd.

New f150 is useless in any language.

You are in no position to say that.I presented my argument and nobody argue about that, which I am happy about. You can't hide new f150 flaws behind language or country of origin, like you always do Alll1 aka RAM Cummins owner aka my brother from another mother.

I'm glad the moderators decided to crack down on juvenile comments on this site.

The new F-150 is a pavement pounding trucks, plain and simple. Had to give it cameras and automated park assist so the city slickers that haven’t owned a truck before can park it downtown.

Big wheels check
Front girly skirts check
Geared for MPGs check
Advertise 12,000+ towing, but in reality majority of models tow ~7,000 max.

Must not be doing too good, just saw a commercial for my regional Ford dealer during the MLB all-star game offering ~$7,000 in rebates on 2015 F-150s. I see more “new” GM trucks, Tundra’s, and Rams on the road than these new F-150s.

Nobody argue about my post, just personal attacks ,which doesn't bring any value to the discussion , so I am sarisfied.


“The truck hasn’t sold up to expectations for the most part,” said Akshay Anand, an analyst at auto researcher Kelley Blue Book. “This may be a hint that in certain parts of the country, the issue might just be more than supply.”

Rewind the tape to a month ago. Ford was screaming we got shortage of frames that's why our sales numbers are not going up.

Now a month later Ford them self is throwing 10 grand off trucks of short supply??? Smell like Ford is try to cover up that F150 just aint cooking. The new F150 isn't even a year old yet with 10 grand on the hood LOL!

American is moving to Ram faster than ever.

Those in the market for new cars are also moving over to new Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles.

Many Americans have become disgusted with the declining quality in Japanese cars and trucks and have, in recent years, switch back to American cars. As many consumers have noted, FCA vehicles offer the best bang for the buck.

As 2014 opened, Detroit was bankrupt, but they were cheering the five-year-old U.S. auto bailout in Italy. That’s because after being the beneficiary of billions in U.S. taxpayer largesse, Fiat, the 115-year-old Italian auto company, is going to buy its final stake in Chrysler from that other big bailout recipient, the United Auto Workers (UAW).

“Chrysler’s Now Fully an Italian Auto Company,” reads the Time magazine online headline.

But wait a minute!

Wasn’t the bailout supposed to be about saving the American auto industry?

Late in the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took heat for arguments, based on news accounts, that the Obama administration "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China." Politifact gave Romney its "lie of the year" award, even though the claim turned out to be correct.

But as my former colleague Mark Beatty and I noted at the time, Romney missed the real reason for outrage. Chrysler wasn't "sold" to an Italian firm, but given away through U.S. tax dollars.

As we wrote in the Daily Caller in November 2012: "The real outrage arising from the 2009 Chrysler bailout is not that its parent company, Fiat, is planning to build plants in China. It’s that the politicized bankruptcy process limited Chrysler’s growth potential by tying it to an Italian dinosaur in the midst of the European fiscal crisis.

"The Obama administration literally gave away ownership of one of the Big Three American auto manufacturers to an Italian car maker struggling with labor and productivity issues worse than those that drove Chrysler to near-liquidation."

Moody’s had downgraded Fiat’s credit rating to “junk” even before the Obama administration arranged for it to acquire a Chrysler stake in 2009, and in Autumn 2012, Moody’s gave Fiat another downgrade that the Financial Times described as even “further into ‘junk’ territory.” And just after Fiat announced it was buying Chrysler's final stake in 2014, Moody's put the company under review for a possible further downgrade.

Since we're all providing unsolicited opinions, here are mine:
1. I like the front clips on the new Ford and new GMC.
2. I thought the fist in the wind look of the current Chevrolet was classy, but this new front clip looks disjointed.
3. Love Ram's features and innovations, but I hate the front clip and the encrypted computer.
4. The new Nissan side panels are just goofy.
5. Wish the new Ridgeline would have pushed the envelope on upscale appointments. Good product, just doesn't make anybody want it.
6. Toyota needs to keep feeding money into development.
7. The Ecoboost motor is the answer to a question that never was asked. I love GM's pushrod simplicity.
8. There's just something about the GM interiors that doesn't quite resonate like the Ford's and Ram's do.
9. Big Al, I don't understand your interest in the US light duty truck market.

#9 FTW

Whiny fiat truck boys..

everyone knows, half tons can't really tow anything heavy anyway, also everyone knows the big 3 lie about the MPG and weights of their trucks anyway, bottom line is, who really cares about MPG in a pickup anyway?

I don't accept links from the Obama Motors fan site that is Allpar.

I do thank you for your comment regarding my very adept aptitude in determining trends. Thank you, again.

Stop and consider my comment and then look at the design pitfalls CAFE is forcing onto US pickup manufacturers to meet FE goals. This is amplified when using a brick as a starting point.

Have a look at the new 2015 aluminium F-150 XLT 4x4 dual cab fitted with the FX4 option (the feature of the FX4 should be standard on all 4x4s, by the way).

Driving on a slightly muddy track the front air dam acts as a bulldozer.

Why? Is this due to good design for off roading?

All the current pickups have the same problem in that it is difficult to get extra mpgs with a profile that is more like a brick. Lighter materials making the truck lighter maybe 1 or 2 mpgs and a turbo 6 with an 8 speed automatic might get another mpg. There is only so much tweeking that can be done to make these trucks more efficient unless maybe you lower the front and the entire profile of a pickup and then it probably would not be accepted by the truck buying public. I am not pointing a finger at Ford as much as making a general statement about truck design and power trains. I can't blame any manufacturer for trying to utilize the low hanging fruit but any larger gains will be very costly and most likely change the very nature of most pickups.

Facts are facts. Ford is going down sharply and FCA up.

Svina Ford sales may go up now that they got 10 grand off their less then a year old brand new F150 HAHA!

Nobody cares who do you support. I didn't write that post BTW. Only cute guy who uses screen name is you.

Brand bashing is not as bad. What worries me, is personal attacks , because of any brand. Some wants to even drug me across Canada for no reason. Brand bashing is no reason to act like that. No wonder whole world is in war .People doesn't know to coexist just because of using different cellphone brand. Stupid.
Let's argue about technical solutions and not about language and country of origin please to move this world forward.
I've never started personal attacks first. Never.

Svigina, yes you are a sick individual. You are what this country is so full of today. Just hate you have to try and share it on this web site.

"9. Big Al, I don't understand your interest in the US light duty truck market."

First off, American full sized trucks aren't "light duty" any more. They are just too big, too heavy and on average too thirsty to be light duty. At best they're medium duty. Anything rated for 10k-pounds of towing capacity is simply more than a light duty truck needs. That is at least part of his interest.

It's time that Americans adopted the global pickups as their light duty model and raised the full-sized ones to super- and heavy-duty exclusively.


these square box like trucks have no chance in hell ever to attract me into buying one..

GM was on the right track in 2000 year with the rounded front end and low to the ground design of their pickups but now I totally hate these looks...

It's very easy to improve aerodynamics automakers just need to hire smarter this dood maybe

@Roadwhale you overstated the FE issue, old vs new. Older trucks got lousy mileage despite being less capable than today's half ton trucks. Half ton trucks back in the 1960s rarely got more than 16 mpg in highway driving because none of them had overdrive back then. They also had 3 sp stick shift trans or at best 3 spd automatics. Again, lousy mileage.

@Big Al from Oz

The FE issue is sysiphean at this point, with pump gasoline in the US running under 3 dollars per gallon in most places.

As we have discussed additional weight reduction will only help those drivers whose trucks are typically driven in town or off road. Weight reduction is not that big a factor for a vehicle driven moderately on the open road.

The aero research only benefits the rare individual who drives at Interstate speeds on a regular basis.

In other words, both areas of endeavor are tapped out without some amazing unexpected new technology.

And for what, to save cheap gas?

This sounds like a personal attack on the commenters who prefer Ford trucks.

"It always makes me chuckle, when ford horde has no argument and play stupid. There is also possibility, they don't play."

This sounds like a personal attack on the commenters who prefer Ford trucks.

"It always makes me chuckle, when ford horde has no argument and play stupid. There is also possibility, they don't play."

Posted by: America Bails Out Chrysler | Jul 17, 2015 7:55:18 PM

It still makes me chuckle.

"@Roadwhale you overstated the FE issue, old vs new. Older trucks got lousy mileage despite being less capable than today's half ton trucks. Half ton trucks back in the 1960s rarely got more than 16 mpg in highway driving because none of them had overdrive back then. They also had 3 sp stick shift trans or at best 3 spd automatics. Again, lousy mileage."

Consider this: a 1997 Ford Ranger with the 2.3 litre four was supposedly rated for 27mpg highway (according to the window sticker). Now, 18 years later, full-sized trucks are still struggling to match that number despite all the new technologies and aerodynamic improvements. Why? Because they've gained both in size and weight. They are on average 1,000 pounds heavier and roughly 15% larger. A totally unnecessary growth.

Additionally, that Ranger came with a five-speed transmission, not a three-speed, also available in the full-sized truck of the same year, though obviously a heavier model.

The point is that it doesn't matter what the gas prices are, trucks have become bloated and heavy, unable to achieve the fuel mileage demanded by CAFE because it was cheaper to grow them than improve them.

For trucks to gain significant gains in fuel economy there will have to be some drastic changes. There will be lighter materials such as aluminum, plastic, and carbon fiber along with smaller engines and 10 speed transmissions which all of these combined will increase efficiency but the manufacturers will still have a long way to go. Trucks might have to be geared more like cars but then they will not have as much torque. The front ends will have to be more aerodynamic than they are currently which will most likely mean no big rig grills. The manufacturers have to design trucks to handle interstates, rural roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, and whatever else and still maintain higher efficiency.

@Road Whale--It is true that all pickups have grown in size and weight over the past 20 years for various reasons. More safety standards such as air bags, reinforced sides, and just as you said pickups have gotten larger. Many Americans have gotten larger as well and the interiors of many smaller vehicles have gotten larger to accommodate the increased size and weight of people. Also Americans are still accustomed to bigger is better and the disappearance of the large rear wheel drive V-8 powered sedans except for a few made by Chrysler, Mercedes, BMW, and a handful of other manufacturers. The crew cab full size pickup has become the family sedan along with the large crossovers.

Pickup trucks in the past were not as popular and did not sell in as high a volume and because of these factors they were not the focus of the regulators. Since the crew cab, trucks have grown in sales and have the attention of the regulators. Pickups are no longer a cheap vehicle and will get even more expensive. Over the next ten years there will be a lot of changes in pickups.

Correction--trucks will not have the lower torque.

Pickups just can't cheat the wind until they stop being *pickups*. The pickup bed negates any marginal gains to the truck's nose. Same thing with the "ladder frame". It can't be smoothed out. Never mind the suspension parts. Trucks must have a minimum of ground clearance too.

CAFE needs to join us in reality. They're pickup trucks, look it up At least potential fines are marginal enough to simply pay. Laughable almost.

The "Jellybean" F-150s made virtually zero gains in over all aerodynamics. Might as well give them a tough rugged look instead.

@Road Whale and @Jeff S
The Ford Ranger and Mazda are 9/10ths the size of US 1/2 tons. Other Global Pickups are getting bigger. There are no small Pickups except, those tiny car based ones from Mexico and Brazil

The European " Pickup Trucks" based on Cab chassis Vans are large. As one American said to me " They have all these 1 tons everywhere "

Another European " I Ton"

@Robert Ryan--Exactly the global trucks have grown as well and the US Colorado is virtually the same size as the global trucks. Eventually the global trucks will grow some more and the full size half ton will shrink slightly and both will be the same. The trick will be to keep the inside of the cab and the bed the same but reduce the length mainly off the front. The only way the US will see a true compact truck will be like the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept based on a front wheel drive crossover platform.

Truck makers could lower the height of trucks and make them more aerodynamic on the front and sides but then if they do too much then trucks will lose much of their utility and many truck buyers will not buy them. After all the low hanging fruit the truck manufacturers options are much harder and more expensive. The only other thing the manufacturers can do is negotiate with the Department of Energy to count smaller more efficient vehicles in their fleet averages against any deficits that they have on meeting the standards on the full size trucks. I realize that the standards for trucks favor a larger profile and that is one reason the size of trucks have grown but the manufacturers still need a way to off set some of these standards.

I say you are very bad person , who didn't bring any value to the discussion, blaming everyone else then.

@Ben - I wish it was just the bed. Look at how the air flow streams efficiently/smoothly, up over the cab then scatters wildly from the abrupt back window. Just one of many things unique and constant about pickups. You should ride in the back of a pickup at speed and tell me what you think. We did it as kids when it was legal. But pickup trucks haven't really changed much since then.

@roadwhale you are simply wrong on many of your so called facts.

Here's a real fact for you: the future improvements in weight reduction or aerodynamics you are hoping for will INCREMENTALLY improve fuel economy but at great expense to the function and driving dynamics of current half tons.

What is the point?

There are other frontiers in electronic technology and fuel refining that can make a much more practical difference.

I as well road in the back of my granddad's pickup even on US 42 going into town. It would be illegal to do that now. Also if you have a sliding window and open it you will see anything in your bed like leaves and dirt swirling around and some will blow inside the cab. Not much you can do with a truck bed to improve aerodynamics except a tonneau cover and that is just an incremental improvement at best.

Fuel economy is possible if we'd accept it. Detune these 400HP beasts and use smaller diesels. Even the diesel HD's would benefit from a HP detune. Make them 250-275HP and keep the torque rating.

I like the power but it's really simple to solve this is we were willing.

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