Yo, we heard you like spoilers, so we're putting a spoiler within your spoiler.
Honda has been busy in its wind tunnel lately. In addition to patents for a pivoting rain gutter and retractable side skirts, it has also been dipping its toes into other F1-inspired technology with a mass-market active tailgate aerodynamic system. CarBuzz discovered a new patent filed with the USPTO, wherein Honda proposed a collapsible rear spoiler that can change shape to improve the aerodynamics of your new CR-V.
A general rule of thumb in the world of automobile aerodynamics is that longer shapes typically have less drag, which explains why some hypermiling hybrid drivers fit all manner of extensions to their vehicles' rear ends. However, such extensions may get in the way of rearward visibility or obstruct access to the cargo area. Meanwhile, simply making a vehicle's normal tailgate spoiler bigger is also not the optimal solution.
Honda's engineers let their imagination run free to devise a new kind of retracting rear spoiler, which is integrated into the tailgate's upper edge, remains out of sight at low speeds, and only appears at higher speeds where it can bring an aerodynamic benefit. But, while most other retractable spoilers are usually heavy and complicated, the proposed Honda spoiler is much simpler and lighter, thanks to its unique construction.
Key to this system is a flexible sheet connected at one end to a rigid bar that defines the retractable spoiler's trailing edge and on the other end to a roller mounted inside the tailgate or in a conventional (fixed) rear spoiler.
Instead of a bulky system of synchronized levers, this flexible sheet's position is adjusted utilizing a small electric motor on each side of the solid trailing edge, which changes the position of the rigid bar and pulls the flexible sheet outwards.
Retracting this flexible spoiler can be achieved either by a spring preload in the roller element or via a third electric motor on the roller itself. This gives constant tension in the flexible sheet, turning it into a solid surface as far as the air passing over it is concerned, thereby lengthening the roofline and reducing drag.
The length of the flexible spoiler's extension can potentially be dynamically adjusted to suit different driving conditions as well, which could have the additional benefits of limiting dust deposits on the rear windshield and keeping it free of water spray in the rain.
Honda's "roller blind spoiler" is certainly an interesting take on adaptive aerodynamics, but it must be noted that the cost- and efficiency improvements over existing adaptive systems need to be substantial to justify further development. In other words, expect to see it on a Honda Pilot or Passport long before it will appear on already-optimized smaller cars with small profit margins or slow sales.