It's no secret that demand for a more fuel-efficient car is on the rise. Gas prices have shot up in the past few years and more buyers are concerned over their impact on global climate change.

With this in mind, carmakers are clamoring to find new ways to boost fuel economy. Cars can be fitted with special tires that cause less friction when rolling down the road. Some manufacturers have turned to hybrid electric systems for their MPG fix. For automakers like Chevrolet, one of the best ways to help increase efficiency is by tweaking a new car's aerodynamics.

The faster a car moves, the more air it must push through in order to go forward. It builds up to the point where Chevy says a car will use one third more fuel at highway speeds just to counteract wind resistance.

By turning a car's body into a more slippery shape, it is able to drive with less resistance. The less work a car does, the less fuel it burns.

Chevrolet has pulled out all the stops in designing its next version of its Malibu sedan. As a result, the company says its new 2013 model will be the most fuel-efficient midsize car it has ever made.

Chevy's air experts have spent countless hours in a wind tunnel changing the car's shape by as little as one millimeter at a time. From the original design, the engineers changed the side mirrors, rounded off the car's corners and even developed a special system of air shutters that can open and close to help make the car more efficient.

Thanks to this relentless work, the 2013 Chevy Malibu is able to boost its highway fuel economy by an extra 2.5 MPG on the highway, just from small changes to its shape.

Aerodynamics aren't the only factor contributing to the shape of a new car. Beyond that, Chevrolet engineers need to make sure the shape of its cars will still comply with a multitude of US and international safety regulations, and in the end, still create an attractive vehicle.

The process of building a car may be an unbelievably complex one, but with car buyers growing more and more concerned over fuel prices and environmental issues, things like aerodynamic efficiency are playing a much larger role.

author photo

J. Mark Sternberg is an automotive journalist, car enthusiast and writer with a degree from the University of Arizona. Mark is a devoted Formula 1 fan and also enjoys boating, flying and attending the occasional track day.

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