Design & Technology / Product
Curves in all the right places: Kia explores aerodynamics June 28th, 2016
Let’s talk about aerodynamics
We typically associate aerodynamics with flight, but the concept lies close to the heart of automobile design as well. So what exactly is aerodynamics and what does any of this have to do with Kia Motors?
Aerodynamics is the study of how different forces affect objects that move through the air. Imagine a paper airplane. When you throw a paper plane through the air, there is the force that thrusts it forward (your hand) and another force (usually air and wind) pushing back and slowing it down. How we fold or design our paper plane affects how these two different forces react and dramatically changes how well our contraption flies.
Similarly, when a car is driving down the road, wind and air are moving in all directions. How a car is shaped and how it cuts through these opposing forces become an essential factor in allowing it to move faster, while still maintaining stability.
It is estimated that more that 70% of the air resistance a vehicle encounters is determined by its exterior styling. Taking measures to reduce air resistance will allow vehicles to accelerate more easily and of course, achieve higher fuel efficiency (because the engine does not have to work as hard to drive against the wind). Reduced noise and increased driving stability are also added benefits.
Kia Niro undergoes aerodynamics experiments at Namyang R&D Center
For decades, car designers and engineers have been battling the wind to create functional (but unique and aesthetically pleasing) designs that will effectively cut through the wind and minimize air resistance. Since early in the brand’s history, Kia Motors has been working to create aerodynamic car bodies at its state-of-the-art Namyang R&D center. Inside the world’s largest aerodynamics research complex that spans the size of a football field, Kia utilizes a 28-square meter nozzle that blows winds at the speed of 200km/h to conduct research on airflow.
Researchers utilize the wind nozzles to study airflow up close
When developing vehicle designs, Kia engineers work to optimize smooth lines so that wind can flow easily around the car. The profile elements of the vehicle, such as the hood, windshield, roof and trunk lid, are intricately shaped for smooth flow of air from grille to rear bumper. Developers also pay special attention to the front surface – the bumper and grille – as well as the under body design, to maximize airflow on the areas that come in contact with wind the most.
Kia Optima – Sleek and iconic design
One of Kia Namyang R&D center’s most recent aerodynamic accomplishments is the all-new Optima. Working closely with the design team based in Frankfurt, Kia focused on enhancing the Optima’s aerodynamic body by refining rear diffusers and giving the car a sleek side profile and sweeping trunk lid.
In addition, the sunroof structure, created from carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and larger full-floor undercover help boost the car’s aerodynamics by reducing weight, noise, vibrations and lowering the car’s center of gravity.
Aerodynamics meets hybrids
The 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid, the sister model of the Optima, also boasts sleek designs and maximized aerodynamics. Although the models of the Optima family share similar exterior aesthetics, the new hybrid boasts further advances in aerodynamic efficiency well-suited for an eco-friendly vehicle of its caliber.
The airflow vents of the Optima Hybrid reduce drag by allowing air to freely pass through.
In addition to the already present aerodynamic features of its gasoline counterpart, the new Optima Hybrid possesses an active air flap grille that automatically opens and closes at high speeds. When activated, it will help the Optima achieve an impressive coefficient of drag of 0.24cd*. A retouch on its front and rear bumpers and new alloy-wheel design also allows for a smoother, energy saving flow of air over the car body.
- * Note: The drag created by a vehicle is measured by the unit called coefficient of drag (cd). The lower the drag, the easier it is for a car to move through the air pushing against it. The average cd for modern automobiles is 0.25 to 0.35. The Optima sedan features a 0.27 cd.
The aerodynamic designs of the Optima sedan and Optima Hybrid maximize driving pleasure by bringing easier acceleration and higher fuel efficiency. Kia is hard at work at our R&D centers to create dynamic and highly functional vehicles with unique styling. So stay tuned for the latest developments from Kia as we continue to deliver advanced aerodynamic engineering and design.