As gas prices continue to climb, many truck owners are searching for ways to improve their vehicle’s fuel efficiency. One popular solution is installing a tonneau cover on their truck bed, which is said to reduce air drag and save gas. But does this claim to hold any truth? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind tonneau covers and their potential impact on gas mileage.
What are Tonneau Covers?
Before diving into whether tonneau covers can save gas, it’s important to understand what they are. Tonneau covers are truck bed covers that protect your cargo from the elements and potential theft. They come in various styles and materials, including soft and hard covers, retractable and roll-up covers, and more.
A tonneau cover is a type of truck bed cover that is designed to protect your cargo from the elements and potential theft while also potentially improving fuel efficiency. Tonneau covers come in a variety of materials, styles and the size of the bed covers may vary based on the types of pickup trucks you have, including hard and soft covers that can be opened or removed entirely for full access to the truck bed.
The Claim: Do Tonneau Covers Save Gas?
The claim that tonneau covers can save gas is based on the idea that they reduce air drag. Air drag is the force that opposes the forward motion of a vehicle, and it’s caused by the resistance of air against the vehicle’s surface. When air flows over a truck bed, it creates a turbulence that increases air drag and reduces fuel efficiency. Tonneau covers are said to minimize this turbulence by smoothing out the airflow and creating a more aerodynamic shape.
The Science: Can Tonneau Covers Improve Gas Mileage?
There have been several studies conducted to test the impact of tonneau covers on gas mileage, and the results have been mixed. Some studies have shown that tonneau covers can indeed improve fuel efficiency, while others have found little to no impact.
One study conducted by the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory found that a tonneau cover could improve gas mileage by up to 10%. However, this study was conducted in a controlled environment with no crosswinds or other factors that could impact airflow.
Another study conducted by Edmunds.com found that a tonneau cover had little impact on gas mileage during their real-world driving tests. They concluded that the potential fuel savings from a tonneau cover would likely be negligible for most drivers.
Factors That Impact Tonneau Cover Performance
While tonneau covers may have some impact on gas mileage, their performance can be impacted by several factors. Some of the key factors to consider include:
- Type of tonneau cover: Different types of tonneau covers have different levels of aerodynamics, and some may be more effective at reducing air drag than others.
- Driving speed: The faster you drive, the more air drag you’ll experience, which means that the potential fuel savings from a tonneau cover may be more significant at higher speeds.
- Wind conditions: Crosswinds and other wind conditions can impact the airflow over your truck bed, which can impact the effectiveness of your tonneau cover.
- Cargo weight and placement: The weight and placement of your cargo can impact the airflow over your truck bed and affect the performance of your tonneau cover.
Should I Use A Tonneau Cover?
Whether or not to use a tonneau cover is a personal decision that should be based on your individual needs and preferences. If improving fuel efficiency and protecting your cargo from the elements and potential theft is important to you, a tonneau cover may be a worthwhile investment. Additionally, tonneau covers can give your truck a more streamlined appearance.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the potential fuel savings from a tonneau cover may be minimal for most drivers, and the effectiveness of the cover can be impacted by various factors such as driving speed and wind conditions. Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether a tonneau cover is right for your truck.
Whether you choose to invest in a tonneau cover or not, it’s important to practice other fuel-efficient driving habits such as maintaining proper tire pressure, avoiding rapid acceleration and braking, and reducing unnecessary weight in your vehicle. By combining these practices with a tonneau cover, you may be able to improve your gas mileage and save some money at the pump.