Today’s automakers are faced with a tough dilemma. Just as the world’s governments are looking to implement stricter emissions and fuel economy standards, consumer tastes have shifted away from passenger cars to bigger, heavier and less efficient crossovers and SUVs.
This rather challenging circumstance has forced some brands to get creative as they try to squeeze more mileage out of their crossovers and SUVs. One way General Motors is tackling the issue is with subtle aero winglets that can be seen affixed to the rear fenders of some of its latest crossover and SUV models.
These little aero pieces, located toward the backs of the rear fenders, help to manage the turbulent airflow exiting the wheel wells. By streamlining this airflow, the vehicle’s overall drag is reduced, squeezing that little extra bit of efficiency out of vehicles like the Cadillac XT4.
In addition to the XT4, these aero winglets are also featured on the new 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer, 2021 Buick Encore GX, 2020 Chevrolet Blazer, 2020 GMC Acadia, 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, 2021 GMC Yukon and 2021 Cadillac Escalade. These vehicles represent the latest of GM’s crossover/SUV offerings, so it’s likely that future crossover models from the automaker will have similar rear fender winglets.
The engineers that helped to develop these aero winglets will likely find themselves quite busy in the coming years as GM shifts its focus to battery electric vehicles. Success in the electric vehicle space is largely dependent on a company’s range-per-charge figures and aerodynamic tweaks like this can be an easy way to pump range figures up.
The importance of aerodynamics with regard to EVs is exemplified by the slippery design of the recently released Tesla Model Y electric crossover. With a low 0.23 drag coefficient, the Model Y is one of the most aerodynamically optimized vehicles on sale today, outclassing many gasoline-powered passenger cars despite being relatively tall and upright.
Other ways automakers work to optimize efficiency is by implementing active grille shutters and using smaller wing mirrors. Some automakers are going even further, ditching side view mirrors altogether in favor of slim rear-facing cameras.