The pressure to create more fuel-efficient vehicles is mounting thanks to a mixture of government regulations and environmentally conscious consumers. One automaker wanted to improve its fuel efficiency by exploring an emerging trend in vehicle design—active grille shutters. These are shutters that are integrated into the vehicle’s front intake grille to alter the flow of air to the engine, promoting cooling when open and fuel-sparing aerodynamics when closed.
Active grille shutters are a relatively new technique in automotive design, and they carry some challenges, particularly in safety and durability. For example, the vendor must be confident that a grille won’t get stuck in ways that would affect vehicle performance or overheat the engine. The automaker turned to us to help it introduce the active grille shutter design in a safe, reliable and affordable format.
The importance of active grille shutters to a vehicle’s operation, along with the technology being relatively new, means that an active grille must be factored into the earliest stages of a vehicle’s design process. Our product design and manufacturing capabilities helped produce a safe, reliable and high-performance design from the outset.
We used our Mirror Controls International (MCi) subsidiary, which specializes in advanced actuation technology for the active grille shutters to work. The company’s strong focus on research and development has created a unique array of actuators that can be used in various active aerodynamic applications.
Thanks to MCi’s technology, the client was able to achieve its primary fuel efficiency goals cost-effectively by reducing the drag effect from unnecessary air intake. It did this while hitting safety targets that are critical in a highly regulated manufacturing sector where the cost of product recalls can run into the millions of dollars.
The automaker also reaped some additional benefits from the active grille shutter. A more controlled intake of air led to lower noise from the motor, and it also reduced the level of wind noise in the cabin, creating a more pleasant driving experience.
“It’s very important for us here at Flex to improve performance, but it is critical to maintain safety while doing so. If a system can’t be relied upon, it doesn’t matter what benefits it may bring.”
– Bill Vergin, General Manager at MCi