Here's a random bit of data from my brother, who recently bought a new truck. Apparently, driving with the tailgate up creates less drag than when it's down.

I'm an aerodynamics engineer. When I was in the U.S. Air Force a few years back, I worked with folks from the Lockheed low-speed wind tunnel. In the 1970s, aircraft production went into a slump, and Lockheed started looking for other customers for its wind-tunnel services. Prime candidates were the auto makers, and Lockheed was successful in convincing Ford, among others, that the wind tunnel would help them reduce drag and wind noise on their vehicles. Needless to say, in the past 15-20 years, Lockheed has learned a lot about car and truck aerodynamics. Anyway, they actually performed drag tests on pickups with the tailgate both up and down, and found that drag was actually LOWER with the tailgate CLOSED! This ran counter to their intuition (and yours). The reason is that a closed tailgate sets up a large "bubble" of stagnant air that slowly circulates around the bed of the truck (we aero types call this a "separated bubble"). When air approaches the truck, it "sees" the bubble as part of the truck. So to the air, the truck looks like it has a nice, flat covering over the bed, and the air doesn't "slam" into the vertical tailgate. If the tailgate is open, or replaced by one of those "air gate" nets, however, that nice, separate bubble in the truck bed does not form (it "bursts"). Then the air approaching the truck "sees" a truck with a flat bed on the back of a tall cab. This is a very nonaerodynamic shape with a very LARGE drag. So, believe it or not, it's best for gas mileage to keep the tailgate CLOSED. Hope this information is helpful. Ed Fitzgerald, Research Assistant, Dept. of Aero/Mechanical Engineering, U. of Notre Dame

Very counter-intuitive.



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