For electric pickups especially, this technology could appreciably extend the maximum range when towing.
General Motors has submitted a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a selectively deployable drag reduction system that can be used for pickups when towing.
Discovered by CarBuzz, the patent denotes the obvious aerodynamic drawbacks of towing a trailer, recreational vehicle, or even a boat, specifically due to the height of the average truck bed in relation to the towed trailer. The latter, of course, can disrupt the airstream, so a drag reduction system that can be deployed whenever it is necessary would be ideal. It also eliminates the time-consuming installation and removal of a more conventional drag reduction device.
In GM's example, the drag reduction system is mounted in the vicinity of the cargo bed and within the cargo bed cover. It will include a deflector that can be easily switched between a configuration that is deployed or non-deployed as required.
When deployed, there are actually two deflectors set at different angles. Since the towed vehicle or rig will have unique aerodynamic properties and heights, these deflector heights can be adjusted to compensate for this, thereby directing airflow over and not into the towed vehicle.
Considering the extent to which technology can make towing easier, we presume that this drag reduction system will also be integrated into the infotainment system.
GM stipulates that self-calibrating app-based control can be used for this drag reduction system, and that would remove the need to manually adjust the deflectors. Active spoilers on sports cars work in a similar fashion, with varying positions depending on the specific driving situation.
This patent is especially relevant considering that electric pickups are set to take over from gas models and that their range on a full charge can be dramatically reduced when towing.
Unless you can afford a $125,000 luxury trailer that has its own battery pack so as not to draw additional energy from your pickup, you'll need to plan your towing excursions carefully when behind the wheel of a Ford F-150 Lightning or the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV.
While it isn't clear what the impact on range will be with and without a drag reduction system like this when an electric pickup is towing, or the improvement in gas mileage with a conventional pickup, it would be a worthwhile exercise for GM to test, and the tech could then be offered as a desirable option.
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