The Effects of Mass and Wheel Aerodynamics on Vehicle Fuel Economy

Paper #:
  • 2017-01-1533

Published:
  • 2017-03-28
Abstract:
Over the next ten years, with the introduction of WLTP in Europe and increased CAFE standards in the United States, fuel economy and emissions reductions are going to play a larger role in vehicle development than ever before. Two major ways to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions are by reducing mass and increasing aerodynamics. In the wheel segment, most lightweight wheel designs are detrimental to aerodynamics and aerodynamic wheels are seen as unstylish and with a high mass penalty. One solution is through the use of composite wheel technology which replaces non-structural aluminum with lighter weight materials. This study used SAE J2263 and SAE J2264 procedures to establish baseline fuel economy numbers and to evaluate various mass, inertial and aerodynamic differences between wheel concepts. Additional physical studies included steady state testing and real world road testing. RANS AMI CFD analysis was also performed to examine the link between the fuel economy differences and Cd. It is concluded that the lightest weight wheel studied is not the most fuel efficient, nor is the heaviest. Additionally, applying a surface without a permanent attachment, such as a wheel cover, is also not the most fuel efficient. The key to unlocking fuel efficiency and emissions reductions through wheel technology lies in permanently bonding an aerodynamically designed surface component to a mass optimized backbone and filling in any gaps.
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