In the world of full-size trucks, fuel economy is often a major consideration. Are tonneau covers truly effective in improving fuel efficiency? This has been a burning question for many truck owners. In this article, I will walk you through the key takeaways from the experience of Tonneau Cover vs Fuel Economy and shed light on the real-world testing conducted. Recently, I had the opportunity to put the 2023 GMC Denali with a 3.0L LZO Diesel engine to the test.
For the experiment, the same highway loop was driven twice – once with the tonneau cover and once without – under similar wind conditions and sticking to the speed limit. The goal was to measure the difference in MPG and answer a long-standing question among truck owners: does a tonneau cover actually improve fuel economy?
Interestingly, despite adding an extra 25-30 pounds of weight to the truck, the tonneau cover seemed to yield a noticeable impact on fuel efficiency. The first loop, driven with the tonneau cover, saw the truck achieving 21.1 MPG. In comparison, the second loop carried out without the tonneau cover, saw a drop to 19.5 MPG. Essentially, the use of the tonneau cover resulted in a gain of over 1 MPG, which, although might seem minimal, can add up to significant savings in the long run. The video suggests that the improved aerodynamics due to the tonneau cover might be the underlying factor behind this improved efficiency.
The results not only provide scientific validation of the impact of a tonneau cover on fuel efficiency but also offer valuable insights for truck owners considering such an accessory. The truck’s driving dynamics and suspension felt similar with and without the tonneau cover, hinting that the tonneau cover’s benefits might not compromise the overall driving experience. Interestingly, the video also ponders whether different types of tonneau covers, like soft, hard, or folding variants, could affect fuel efficiency differently – an aspect that warrants further exploration. The bottom line? A tonneau cover could very well save you money on fuel costs, making it a worthy consideration for your pickup truck.
Setting Off on the Journey
I began my journey by filling up the truck with diesel fuel and setting off on a 300-mile trip to Brownsville, Texas. The truck was equipped with a tonneau cover on the back, a feature that could potentially affect the aerodynamics and fuel economy. To measure the fuel economy, I decided to rely on the truck’s MPG meter rather than calculating it manually. I used an onboard diagnostic tool (OBD), which you can easily order from Amazon, to record my miles per gallon. The OBD plugs into the port of your truck and comes with a downloadable app that logs your data automatically.
Observations on the Road
As I drove, I noticed that the truck’s fuel economy was gradually improving. The range, which initially stood at 532 miles, began to increase as the truck’s MPG meter recalibrated for the long trip. This was a promising sign.
The truck’s suspension also caught my attention. Despite being a bit harsher than other trucks, it felt more compliant and handled bumps and imperfections in the road quite well. This made for a comfortable and smooth ride.
Arrival at Destination
Upon reaching Brownsville, I took note of the truck’s average fuel economy for the trip. It stood at an impressive 29.7 MPG, with a total range of 571 miles. For a full-size truck, these numbers were quite remarkable.
The Return Trip
The return trip presented a new challenge – a 22-mile-per-hour headwind. As expected, this significantly reduced the truck’s fuel economy. However, despite this setback, the overall fuel economy of the truck remained impressive.
Factors to Consider Tonneau Cover vs Fuel Economy
Several factors contribute to the observed increase in fuel efficiency. Tonneau covers are known to reduce wind resistance, minimizing the drag experienced by the truck while in motion. This aerodynamic advantage translates into improved fuel economy. However, it’s essential to note that results may vary depending on the specific tonneau cover type and design. Some covers, such as hard aluminum or folding ones, may yield different outcomes.
Reviewing the Impact of Tonneau Covers on Fuel Economy
There’s a common belief among truck owners that tonneau covers, or truck bed covers, can help improve fuel economy. To put it simply, the theory is that a covered truck bed reduces aerodynamic drag, which in turn should lead to improved fuel efficiency. But let’s dig a little deeper and see how this idea stands up to some real-world observations.
Understanding the Aerodynamics
To start with, we need to understand the aerodynamics involved in a pickup truck. With an open bed, the air pushes against the tailgate, creating a considerable amount of drag. Now, by installing a tonneau cover, you’re essentially streamlining the vehicle. With the truck bed cover, the airflow moves more smoothly over the back of the truck, which should theoretically cut down on the aerodynamic drag and improve gas mileage.
The Reality Check
However, let’s be realistic here. While the theory sounds convincing, the real-world impact of a tonneau cover on fuel economy might not be as significant as you’d expect. Various studies conducted have shown that the improvement in fuel economy varies greatly, with some suggesting as little as a 1% increase, and others suggesting up to a 10% increase. The percentage of improvement largely depends on the type of cover, the driving conditions, and the driving style.
A Bit of Personal Observation
Now, let me share an observation without going into too much detail. Once upon a time, I came across a Dodge Ram 1500, a pretty sturdy and fuel-consuming model. The owner decided to fit it with a hard folding tonneau cover, expecting a considerable boost in fuel economy. After a couple of months of use, he did notice a slight improvement in gas mileage, but it
was far from dramatic – roughly around a 2-3% increase. So, while there was a small gain, it certainly didn’t create a significant dent in his fuel expenses.
Tonneau Covers – More Than Just Fuel Savers
While the effect on fuel economy might not be as substantial, it’s essential to remember that tonneau covers offer other benefits. They provide extra security for your cargo, protect the bed from weather damage, and let’s not forget, they also give your truck a sleek, stylish look.
In the quest for understanding the nuances of tonneau covers and their impact on fuel economy, two resources from reputable manufacturers have stood out to me as particularly insightful.
The first one is from TruXedo TruXedo’s Tonneau Talk Blog. They have a pretty comprehensive blog where they discuss various topics related to tonneau covers. In one of their posts, they delve into the science behind how a tonneau cover can improve a truck’s aerodynamics. Personally, I find this resource beneficial as it offers an expert viewpoint and it’s presented in a simple-to-understand manner. The blog also provides additional information on choosing the right cover, installation tips, and maintenance advice – all essential points when considering a tonneau cover.
The second resource I found is Peragon Peragon’s Customer Stories. This section of their site showcases real-world experiences of customers who have installed Peragon tonneau covers on their trucks. There are stories spanning various makes and models, providing a diverse range of experiences. In my opinion, these firsthand accounts give a great practical insight into how different tonneau covers can affect performance, usability, and yes, fuel economy. It’s one thing to hear from the manufacturers, but getting information straight from fellow truck owners offers a completely different perspective.
Both of these resources can definitely aid in making an informed decision about whether a tonneau cover is right for your truck and your needs.
Final Thoughts and Recommendations
Based on my findings, it’s evident that a tonneau cover can positively affect fuel efficiency to some extent. While the improvement in MPG was modest, it still demonstrates the potential benefits of utilizing a tonneau cover on your truck. However, it’s crucial to consider other factors such as driving conditions, vehicle specifications, and personal preferences before making a purchasing decision.
The tonneau cover can provide not only improved fuel economy but also added security and protection for your cargo. Whether you’re a frequent camper or simply desire a sleeker look for your truck bed, a tonneau cover can be a valuable addition.
Individual results may vary, and it’s recommended to conduct thorough research and consult with experts before making a decision about installing a tonneau cover on your truck. Remember, every truck is unique, so conducting your own tests and gathering specific data can help you make an informed decision.
In conclusion, the 2023 GMC Denali with a 3.0L LZO Diesel engine offers impressive fuel economy for a full-size truck. Even when faced with challenges such as a headwind, the truck’s fuel economy remained commendable. Whether you’re embarking on a long journey or simply driving around town, the truck with a tonneau cover is a reliable and efficient choice.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Does a Tonneau Cover Improve Fuel Economy?
While a tonneau cover can theoretically reduce aerodynamic drag and thus increase fuel economy, the real-world impact is often much less significant. The improvement might range from 1% to 10%, depending on the type of cover, driving conditions, and driving style.
What Type of Tonneau Cover is Best for Fuel Economy?
Hardcovers, particularly those with a low-profile design, are generally believed to offer the most aerodynamic benefits. However, the exact impact on fuel economy can still vary widely based on numerous factors.
How Much Can a Tonneau Cover Improve My Truck’s Gas Mileage?
The improvement in gas mileage largely depends on the specific model of the truck and the type of tonneau cover used. Some truck owners report an increase in fuel efficiency by around 1% to 10%.
Is Buying a Tonneau Cover Worth It for Fuel Savings Alone?
Although a tonneau cover can improve fuel economy to some extent, it might not lead to significant savings in fuel costs. However, tonneau covers also provide added security for your cargo, protect your truck bed from weather damage, and enhance the overall look of your truck.
Does the Design of the Tonneau Cover Matter for Fuel Economy?
Yes, the design of the tonneau cover can impact fuel economy. Low-profile, hardcovers are considered to be the most aerodynamic. However, the actual effect on fuel economy will also depend on the specific model of your truck and your driving habits.