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What A Difference Aerodynamics Makes - Part 2

Time:2018-12-16 02:02Turbochargers information Click:

Fuel F150 aerodynamics Aerolid


Tatra T87, built in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.

The Tatra T87, built in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s, may be the ultimate expression of the aerodynamic design craze of the period between the two world wars. Blending aero design and functionality is the challenge.

What A Difference Aerodynamics Makes - Part 2

Our continuing journey into the benefits of better vehicle aerodynamics

By John Gilkison and Philip Knox


From Thursday November 13th through Monday 17th of this year I set out on a five day drive to pick up an aerodynamic camper shell and a hitch mounted boat tail box in Little Rock, Arkansas to improve the mileage of my 2014 Ford 150 truck. As per Murphy’s Rule the weather did not cooperate in a spectacular way with my attempts to do MPG testing on my truck driving naked (no aero appliances) and then driving with the aero appliances added.

My story begins September of this year when my wife and I bought our 2014 Ford F 150 4X4 Crew Cab pickup truck with a 6.5 ft bed. The truck has a 3.5 liter V6 EcoBoost engine with variable valve timing, four valves per cylinder, and dual turbochargers. It is capable of 365 horsepower at 5,000 RPM, has 420 ft/lbs of torque on tap at around 3,000 RPM, and a plateau power band runs from 2K RPM’s to 4K RPM’s.

We bought the truck trading in our 2011 Toyota 4 Runner. We plan to buy a 5th wheel trailer and we want to be able to adequately tow it. This vehicle is the only one we own, so it must meet all our regular needs. The crew cab gives us plenty of passenger room; the 6.5 ft bed is long enough for hauling and needed for the sliding 5th wheel hitch for towing. The truck weighs just over 6,100 lbs dry.

Ford F150 with Aerolid installed

Phillip Knox, who was the subject of my last blog about the wind tunnel test of his aero modified Toyota T-100, happened to be visiting us in September when we bought the new truck. Phil knew Brett Herndon who lives Little Rock, AR. Brett has manufactured aerodynamic camper shells for the Ford F 150 w/6.5 ft truck bed. Brett calls his work of art the Aerolid. Brett has had the Aerolid tested in the A2 wind tunnel and it tested out to have a Delta Cd of 0.062. The meaning of this is that the Aerolid would take the 0.402 Cd of my truck down to a stealthy Cd of 0.34. I wanted one, I had to have it!

Brett Herndon worked in automotive and aircraft design for the past 33 years.  Companies Brett worked for include Ford Motor Company, Gulfstream Aerospace, and Raytheon Corporate Jets, just to mention a few.  Brett’s area of expertise is aircraft pattern making and automotive clay modeling.  These abilities allowed him to tool up and construct the aerodynamic peripherals for pickup trucks.

We called Brett and he had a two year old black Aerolid he was willing to sell us. He also had a hitch mounted boat tail which was a one of a kind test item, but it was only painted in a primer gray. We agreed upon a price, and in September we set the travel date to go to Little Rock, Arkansas, for Thursday November 13, 2014. Also I hoped to beat the onset of cold weather. It was “The best laid plans of mice and men, as they say”.

In the mean time we tried to baseline the performance of my truck so we would have something to compare any new numbers after the aerodynamic appliances were attached. This mostly involved using the Instant MPG Readout on the dash to log MPG’s for different speeds from 40 mph in 5 mph increments up to 85 mph. We did this with the AC off and with the AC on. Ford rates the truck at an enigmatic 15 City/21 Hwy/17 mixed. After data logging and looking at the power bands of the engine the EPA label made sense.

A good problem we have here in Radium Springs, NM is that it is at 4,000 feet of elevation, which means we have 12% less air density. This translates into around 8% better MPG’s. Also our driving cycle is more mixed and highway than just city driving. We travel a rural highway at 55 mph to town, or alternately an interstate highway at 70 mph, and then 65 mph to town. To sum up, much of our driving is 40 miles to and from town, and 10 miles in the city. This is an 80% Hwy/ 20% City driving cycle. Neither my wife nor I work as we are both retired, so we do not need to drive on a daily basis.

We were enjoying pleasant fall weather here in the first week of November with daytime highs in the 60’s F and nighttime lows in the high 30’s F. We had not needed to even turn on our furnace yet. Our MPG testing went well, as we had low air densities. This begins to change in the second week of November as Typhoon Nuri moved into the Aleutian Islands. Typhoon Nuri was a Black Swan event the weather people took to calling a “Typhoon Bomb”. The remnant of this Typhoon altered the Jet Stream so that it dipped way south into most of the continental United States bringing polar air into over 90% of the country earlier in the year than is normal.

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