If you’ve ever watched professional racing, one of the first things you may notice is how closely the drivers follow one another. Running bumper to bumper is a strategic method known as drafting. It enables the driver to enter the leading car’s aerodynamic slipstream in an effort to reduce the drag force on the vehicle, using the distribution of air pressure to improve fuel efficiency.
Then we began to wonder, could this racing technique apply to a motorist on the highway? Could drafting behind a big rig or semi-truck really improve a car’s fuel efficiency?
The closer you follow, the more benefit you get from the drafting effects, but obviously, this is highly dangerous to perform on the road. Instead, we tested our theory from the safety of our computers by turning to the Altair Virtual Wind TunnelTM (VWT) simulation tool to perform the experiment.