Toyota patent image for telescoping vehicle tail.

Will Your Next Toyota Have a Telescoping Tail?

Posted at Fri, Jun 22, 2018 3:00 PM

There are a lot of exciting and interesting developments being made in the automotive industry lately, and Toyota seems to be at the forefront when it comes to these innovations. Not that long ago we spoke about Toyota’s patent for a between-the-seats coin catching device, and today we’re going to be examining Toyota’s newest patent: A telescoping tail for cars.

The idea both sounds and looks a little outlandish at first glance, but the science behind the concept actually makes a lot of sense. If you’re interested in learning more about this new patent and how it could end up on a Toyota you purchase in the not-so-distant future, our Westbury Toyota staff has offered up an insider's look at this unique and innovative take on the standard automotive experience below.

The Logic Behind the Tail

Improving aerodynamics is the main reason behind the idea of the telescoping tail. The ultimate intent is to reduce air drag while driving, which most automakers do by attempting to streamline vehicle bodies during the design phase. Despite all the advances made in vehicle design over the last few years, the rear end still proves to be a problem when it comes to achieving an ideal aerodynamic form. The telescoping tail that Toyota’s Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America division has come up with aims to rectify that problem.

As Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech of The Drive explains, the telescoping tail attachment (which in rudimentary sketches looks like a giant drill out of a science fiction movie) is in reality a mechanism that reduces air drag with an actuator for deployment. As it stands now, when you drive your car a kind of “vacuum” is created behind the vehicle as air is pushed out of the way. More air immediately rushes in to fill that void, and as it does it hits the side of the vehicle, thus creating drag. In an effort to combat this, the telescoping tail has been designed to decrease the size of the vacuum, limiting air drag and, as a result, improving fuel efficiency for the vehicle.

In other words, having a telescoping tail on the back of your next Toyota could help ensure that your fill-ups at local gas stations here on Long Island become fewer and further between.

An Idea Already in Practice

Chances are you’ve already seen something like this in use while out driving on the highways. As Sean Murray of Hot Cars points out, there are tractor trailer truck tails used by trucking companies for the same desired effect: Improving aerodynamics while simultaneously reducing fuel consumption. Known as “panels” and “farings,” these tractor trailer devices are proven to save between five and 15 percent of fuel when used, with an average of about 10 percent.

Obviously, the aerodynamics of a large semi-truck/tractor trailer and a car are very different, but the reasoning behind the trailer tails and the telescoping tail that Toyota has devised is functionally the same. Given the smaller size and smaller overall load capacity of a car, it stands to reason that a deployable telescoping tail could improve fuel efficiency by a considerable amount.

Knowing What to Expect

It’s going to be some time before we see Toyota vehicles manufactured with this mechanism, but it’s pretty clear as to how it will be used. The telescoping tail won’t be deployed all the time. Instead, there will be an option to use it, and presumably the best time to do so will be during long drives when fuel consumption is a concern.

It’s also not unreasonable to assume that the device will also be effective when driving in inclement weather, particularly during days when there are heavy winds that create even more air drag than usual. It’s also safe to assume that the tail mechanism will combat air drag created by uneven road surfaces and uphill and downhill driving.

Another Impressive Innovation

As strange as the telescoping tail may look, it’s a device that Toyota has created in an effort to make vehicles with improved fuel efficiency, which will eventually have an influence on everyone who drives a Toyota vehicle. In this day and age fuel efficiency is more important than ever, which is why it’s becoming more apparent that inventions such as this one are less of an option and more of a necessity.

Toyota keeps searching for the answers to problems no other automakers have addressed yet, which is what makes the company such a notable trailblazer in the industry – and it’s also what makes us here at Westbury Toyota so proud of every innovation.

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