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Go with the flow: cutting fuel consumption


Those of us who enjoy caravanning and feel the call of the open road, will know the importance of getting out of the city and into the country. But, are we getting to our destinations cheaply? How good are the aerodynamics of our caravans and does this make a major difference to our fuel consumption? The short answer is yes. Increased aerodynamic drag can sometimes contribute to a doubling of the tow vehicle’s consumption in some cases.  

Caravan purchasers in general tend to concentrate more on the cosmetics of the caravan rather than improved fuel efficiency through the inclusion of good aerodynamics. Reducing the drag on a caravan will improve efficiency, reduce tyre wear as well as strain on the tow vehicle’s engine. Typically a caravan is used as a home away from home, with their main selling points being the space and comfort that is offered. Generally, caravan space has taken precedence over aerodynamic design.

When we look back on early horse drawn Gypsy caravans, not a whole lot has changed in terms of general shape when compared to modern caravans. Yes, technology has advanced and horses have been replaced with tough tow vehicles, but aerodynamics still need to catch up. But it’s not all doom and gloom with caravan aerodynamics. Shapes of caravans are beginning to change, taking on more rounded shapes that improve aerodynamics and contribute to improved fuel consumption. More emphasis is being placed on the overall caravan package, rather than just focusing on the interior.

The box styling of caravans is there to maximize internal space with numerous configurations and floorplan designs and sizes to choose from yet less thought has gone into aerodynamics. There is literally a caravan for every type of buyer, from those wanting palatial larger double axle caravans, to those who want a light weight easy-to-tow unit. It’s a matter of preference.

Maybe the answer is a collapsible caravan? This type of design can be found in trailer tents, and essentially it allows the entire living area to be folded away into a compact towable unit that offers better aerodynamic properties through reduced surface areas. This equates to improved fuel consumption.

There are certain adaptations that can be done to improve a caravan’s aerodynamics, yet many of these modifications such as nose cones and side skirts do not alter the inherent design of the caravan but rather improve the caravan’s movement through the air when being towed by reducing turbulence and drag.

And, don’t minimize the effectiveness of these additions such as nose cones, as they do make a positive contribution to reduce overall fuel consumption. A vehicle can use up to half of its power to plough through the air, and by reducing the drag coefficient by including aerodynamically designed additions such as a nose cone will improve the vehicle’s ability to carve through the air with reduced resistance. Large trucks make use of nose cones to dramatically reduce fuel consumption.

Remember, a small layout of money to improve the aerodynamics of your caravan will quickly be recouped in reduced fuel bills.

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