If you’re a truck owner, you’ve probably heard that a tonneau cover can help improve gas mileage. But is it true? Let’s take a closer look at the science behind this claim.
First, it’s important to understand how a tonneau cover works. A tonneau cover is a type of truck bed cover that is designed to protect cargo from the elements and theft. It can be made from a variety of materials, including vinyl, canvas, or hard plastic, and can be either hinged or roll-up tonneau covers.
One of the primary benefits of a tonneau cover is that it can reduce drag and improve aerodynamics. When a truck is traveling at high speeds, air can enter the bed of the truck and create drag, which can reduce fuel efficiency. By installing a tonneau cover, the truck bed is sealed off from the wind, reducing drag and improving aerodynamics.
So, does a tonneau cover actually improve gas mileage? The answer is, it depends. According to a study conducted by SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association), a tonneau cover can improve fuel efficiency by up to 10%. However, the actual amount of fuel savings will depend on several factors, such as driving speed, terrain, and the type of tonneau cover being used.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these factors.
One of the biggest factors that can impact fuel efficiency is driving speed. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, fuel efficiency decreases significantly at speeds above 50 mph. In fact, for every 5 mph over 50 mph, it’s estimated that you’re losing around 7% in fuel efficiency.
So, if you typically drive at high speeds, installing a tonneau cover could potentially help improve your gas mileage. By reducing drag and improving aerodynamics, a tonneau cover can help offset some of the fuel efficiency losses associated with high-speed driving.
Another factor that can impact fuel efficiency is terrain. Driving on hills or in areas with lots of stop-and-go traffic can reduce fuel efficiency, as the engine has to work harder to maintain speed.
However, a tonneau cover may not be as effective at improving fuel efficiency in these situations. This is because the primary benefit of a tonneau cover is reducing drag, which is most noticeable at higher speeds. In stop-and-go traffic or on hilly terrain, other factors such as engine efficiency and driving style may have a greater impact on fuel efficiency.
Type of Tonneau Cover
Finally, the type of tonneau cover you choose can also impact its effectiveness at improving fuel efficiency. There are several different types of tonneau covers available, including hard covers, soft covers, and retractable covers.
Hard covers are typically more durable and offer better security than soft covers. They can also be more effective at reducing drag and improving aerodynamics, as they provide a more solid surface for the wind to flow over. However, they can also be heavier, which can offset some of the fuel efficiency gains.
Soft covers are typically lighter and easier to install than hard covers. They can also be less expensive. However, they may not be as effective at reducing drag and improving aerodynamics as hard covers, as they can be more susceptible to wind resistance.
Retractable covers are a newer type of tonneau cover that combines the durability of a hard cover with the convenience of a soft cover. They typically consist of multiple slats that can be rolled up or down, allowing you to adjust the level of coverage depending on your needs. Retractable covers can be effective at reducing drag and improving aerodynamics, but they can also be more expensive than other types of tonneau covers.
Overall, the type of tonneau cover you choose will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you’re primarily looking to improve fuel efficiency, a hard cover may be the most effective option. However, if you’re looking for something lighter or more versatile, a soft cover or retractable cover may be a better choice.
Other Factors That Can Impact Fuel Efficiency
It’s also important to note that while a tonneau cover can potentially improve gas mileage, it’s not a silver bullet. There are many other factors that can impact fuel efficiency, such as:
- Driving style: Aggressive driving, such as hard braking and rapid acceleration, can reduce fuel efficiency.
- Vehicle maintenance: Proper vehicle maintenance, such as regular oil changes and tire rotations, can help improve fuel efficiency.
- Tire pressure: Underinflated tires can reduce fuel efficiency, so it’s important to check your tire pressure regularly.
- Cargo weight: Carrying heavy cargo can reduce fuel efficiency, so it’s important to only carry what you need.
In conclusion, a tonneau cover can potentially improve gas mileage by reducing drag and improving aerodynamics. However, the actual amount of fuel savings will depend on several factors, such as driving speed, terrain, and the type of tonneau cover being used. If you’re considering installing a tonneau cover, it’s important to do your research and choose a cover that best meets your individual needs and preferences. And remember, while a tonneau cover can help improve fuel efficiency, there are many other factors that can impact your overall gas mileage.