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Drag coefficient and aerodynamics

Drag coefficient and aerodynamics

The main component that judges whether a car is aerodynamically efficient is known as the drag coefficient, effectively giving a value to how well a vehicle can cut its way through air.

Drag force on a vehicle acts on the same plane as the direction of motion (horizontally) and increases exponentially as speed increases. A low coefficient is conducive to high top speed and low fuel consumption, while a higher drag coefficient is generally found in cars searching for high cornering speeds influenced by downforce.

Calculating the drag coefficient

Calculating the drag coefficient

The engineering equation uses:

• FD - A drag force

• ρ - Air density

• V - Airspeed

• A - Frontal area

It shows that a car’s coefficient of drag can be found by analyzing the drag force acting on the car at a given speed. The component within the equation that will have the largest effect on car design will be the frontal area, as this will shape the front profile of the car, influencing the rest of the design.

This is why Bugatti Veyron sits nice and snug on the tarmac with a small and efficient frontal profile when compared to something like a hatchback.

The value game

The value game

The drag coefficient for something of the general dimensions of a car lies around the 0.3-0.4 mark.

Car manufacturers have been including drag coefficients within their car’s stats much more in the last decade, coinciding with the transition towards eco-friendly motoring.

The industry has very much settled on producing cars in the 0.3 regions, both from a design and practicality point of view, but stray below that and you will save plenty of cash on your monthly fuel bill, along with a very healthy potential top speed.

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