Chevy Cruze Eco 'feels' wind change to better fuel economy

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco achieves up to an estimated 40 MPG on the highway--hybridlike efficiency without the hybrid cost.

Suzanne Ashe
Suzanne Ashe has been covering technology, gadgets, video games, and cars for several years. In addition to writing features and reviews for magazines and Web sites, she has contributed to daily newspapers.
Suzanne Ashe
General Motors

Exploded view of the air shutter system in the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, which uses sensors to feel and sense wind and temperature conditions. The sensors work with electric motors that open and close shutters automatically, contributing nearly half a mile per gallon efficiency in combined city and highway driving. General Motors

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco will owe, in part, its estimated 40 MPG on the highway to its innovative design.

Greg Fadler, aerodynamics engineering group manager at Chevrolet, said in a press release, the front grill and air shutter system of the Cruze Eco uses sensors to feel and sense wind and temperature conditions. The senors allow the car to change shape and cut through the air more smoothly.

At high speeds, the shutters stay closed to reduce drag. At lower speeds, the shutters open to maximize engine-cooling air flow.

The Cruze Eco's cooling systems was put to the standard GM test by pulling a trailer up a grade in Death Valley. The shutter allows for significantly improved fuel economy, while still providing the cooling needed in that extreme case.

"The real fun of the job is when we discover something new or innovative that allows us to do something better than we or our competition has done before," Fadler said.