The Ford F-Series is #1 in US automobile sales. And it seems that it’s not getting a plug anytime soon (though a hybrid version is in the works). But US fuel economy regulations are pushing for it to get more fuel efficient, and consumers would love that as well. One way Ford is improving its efficiency is through the use of lightweight aluminum. But that’s not enough in itself.

The latest news from Ford on the matter, out just yesterday, is that it is improving the aerodynamics (and thus efficiency) of the F-150 by adding an “air curtain.”


I think the animation above does a good enough job explaining the air curtain, but I’ll let Ford tell us a bit more. “Air curtain technology, which first debuted on the all-new Ford Mustang, allows air to flow through a vent underneath the headlamps and out around the wheel…. By optimizing the aerodynamic design of F-150, Ford designers and engineers reduced drag to help F-150 deliver a best-in-class gasoline EPA-estimated rating of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway when equipped with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost® V6 engine.1 ”

While I don’t condone driving a vehicle with such low fuel economy unless you absolutely have to, I’m happy to see Ford boosting the efficiency of what is an insanely popular model. Honestly, though, this seems so simple and logical that I don’t understand why it hasn’t been the norm on automobiles for decades. Nonetheless, Ford had to work a little bit to develop, test, and roll out the air curtain….

“With the new F-150, an extensive amount of time was spent running aerodynamic simulations and doing wind tunnel tests,” said Rob Lietz, Ford technical expert in applied computational fluid dynamics. “Major advances in our computational fluid dynamics capability let us quickly see how we could improve airflow while maintaining the tough truck looks expected from F-150.”

There’s still a lot that can be done to improve aerodynamics of the F-150 and other vehicles. And there’s actually a lot more that Ford is doing with the F-150. Have a look:

  • Flush-mounted windshield eliminates need for molding that would disrupt smooth airflow
  • Tailgate top is designed to act as a spoiler, giving air that flows off the roof a place to land before smoothly trailing off – reducing turbulence behind the truck
  • Cargo box is narrower than the cab, with no reduction in box volume, which enhances airflow, while a trim piece prevents air from getting trapped between cab and box
  • Rear corners including taillamps are precisely angled so air breaks off cleanly – reducing turbulence behind the truck
  • Duct under headlamp channels air through to the wheelhousing and reduces the wake generated from the wheel

Good on you, Ford. (I know — you were essentially forced to do this, but nonetheless.)