Spoiler Alert: Minivans and SUVs Could Become More Fuel Efficient

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A mini van driving down a road with a blue sky.

Matthew Micah Wright / Getty Images

A specially designed rear spoiler could increase the fuel efficiency of minivans and SUVs, according to a new study detailed in Green Car Congress. The study reveals that such a spoiler could both reduce drag and nearly eliminate aerodynamic lift—effectively saving several miles per gallon worth of gas consumption. The researchers used principles of fluid dynamics and ran numerical simulations in order to craft an ideal design for a spoiler specifically designed for bluff-backed vehicles. The study was published in the International Journal of Vehicle Design, and it found "that the aerodynamic drag and lift on a mini-van moving at 108 kph (67 mph) are reduced by 5% and more than 100%, respectively, when the new spoiler is attached to it."

And those numbers, especially the inconsequential-seeming 5 percent of drag relief, can add up to major fuel savings:

"65% of the power required for ground vehicles to travel on a highway at 70 miles per hour is being consumed due to aerodynamic drag, the reductions from the spoiler could increase fuel economy by up to several miles per gallon."

It should be emphasized how different this spoiler is from those we're accustomed to seeing on performance cars, and the small ones already installed on some SUVs and minivans—these spoilers may appear a little strange by comparison:

"Conventional spoilers resemble an inverted plane wing and generally work by increasing the downward force on the back of the vehicle as well as improving the flow of air across the bluff rear. The new rear spoiler resembles a wave in profile rather than a wing."

So there you have it: minivans with wave-like spoilers that'll get you extra miles to the gallon—pair that with hybrid technology and it sounds like a better way to take the kids to soccer practice to me.