Max Gladwell

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The Coefficient of FastSkinz

January 15th, 2009 by Max Gladwell · 19 Comments

A new vehicle wrap technology reduces drag and increases efficiency by up to 25%. Can it really be this simple?

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It’s not often we get to break stories, but this is one we’ve patiently followed for the better part of the last six months.

SkinzWraps is a vehicle wrap company based in Dallas, Texas. It’s primary business is graphical, vinyl wraps for cars, buses, and pretty much anything that can be wrapped. We’ve known the company’s CEO and founder, Peter Salaverry, for many years. A die-hard entrepreneur, Pete is always pushing the envelope, and when he first pitched us on the idea of FastSkinz, it made theoretical sense. But it also seemed a bit too…obvious. And simple. But we forgot that the best ideas are often the simplest and most obvious ones. They just require the right type of entrepreneur to execute on them. So Pete went ahead and developed the product. Evidently, it works.

FastSkinz is a patent-pending technology that markedly reduces wind drag and therefore increases efficiency. In a word, it’s cleantech. The FastSkinz material is similar to standard vinyl except for one key element: dimples. It’s dimpled like a golf ball, and the aerodynamic principles are quite similar. The dimples generate turbulence when air passes over them, which reduces the air pressure and enables an object, such as a vehicle, to more easily slip through the air. That’s one reason why a golf ball flies so far (another is the lift it generates). When applied to the surfaces of a vehicle, where there is tremendous wind drag, the FastSkinz material generates a layer of turbulent air that reduces the drag coefficient and ultimately saves gas. How much gas?

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According to the company’s tests, which have ranged from everyday driving to NASCAR wind-tunnel testing and setting records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, FastSkinz can boost efficiency by 18 to 25% depending on type of drivetrain. A local Dallas blogger went for a ride in one of the test vehicles and had this to report:

“Peter notes that the EPA’s site says the Scion in question should be getting 22 city driving and 28 highway. On Monday, we were getting about 28 with stop-and-go, 34 on the highway. He says he’s been seeing 27-29 city, 32-35 highway.”

This is despite the fact that the EPA’s MPG estimates tend to be quite generous and forgiving. The good news is that the FastSkinz technology favors hybrid and electric powertrains because batteries don’t lose power in a linear fashion. So the efficiency gains tend to be at the high end of the range. In fact, SkinzWraps did the wrap for the Hybrid Technologies All-Electric Mini Cooper that we tested a few months ago, and FastSkinz has done extensive testing with the company’s all-electric fleet.

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Pete also recounted a experience during the early testing phases when the efficiency gain he was experiencing was suddenly lost. It turned out that the dimples had filled in with pollen. After washing the car, the extra MPGs returned, confirming the effectiveness of the technology.

FastSkinz has wrapped one of the CNG (natural gas) vehicles for the Pickens Plan fleet to demonstrate the technology for Boone and his team, and there is now a YouTube channel where they’ll be uploading videos from the ongoing testing.

While getting 20% more miles per gallon would be considered a bonus for the average driver, the highest and best use for FastSkinz will probably start with more industrial-scale applications, such as large trucking fleets.

Indeed, what might FastSkinz be able to do for brown?

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Tags: Automotive · Entrepreneurs