Active Aero Is Going Mainstream: Patent Of The Week

Active aero elements such as moving louvres and wings are now common-place in many motorsports and even hypercars. The purpose is always relating to aerodynamic drag. The aim is either to reduce it for greater top speed or increase it for better grip. Ford has filed a patent for an “Active spoiler system and method”, so it may be headed for your affordable family SUV in the near future. I say SUV, as the diagrams from the patent are clearly from the current (but soon to be replaced) Ford Kuga/Escape.

In the filing, Ford points out that tyres are inherently poor for drag due to their shape. On a road car, there are relatively few things you can do to minimise this without compromising ground clearance. As everyone knows, this drag increases with speed. So Ford’s patent is for a “new and improved” active spoiler that is deployed at higher speeds to guide air around the front tyres.

The spoiler (14) is deployed from within the bumper

The spoiler, shown below, effectively uses a “jack screw” and rotary motor to drive the spoiler downwards from its hidden position in the bumper assembly when required.

The spoiler assembly which is deployed downwards in front of the front tyres

The proposed control method for this spoiler systems appears to operate with two conditional elements:

  1. The vehicle is above a certain speed (e.g. 55mph/75kph) for a minimum amount of time (e.g. for longer than 15 seconds)
  2. The ambient temperature is above 34 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the potential risk of freezing in the deployed position

The patent only details the system and its control principles, so there are questions on how much of an effect these will have on fuel economy in real world conditions and how well that balances with the cost and potential for complications. I mean, it’s still and SUV, right? How aerodynamic can it get?

But, on the brighter side, you’d be able to say to your McLaren-owning neighbour, “Yeah, my car has active aero, too!”.

Thoughts? Comment below, or get in touch on Twitter, @ints_uk

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