### No, Cars Are Not Wings

It’s a common refrain: “Cars are shaped like wings, so they make lift.” Shockingly, one of these was published by a major automotive magazine. The only problem is, it isn’t true. Cars are entirely different from wings (or 2D sections of wings used for analysis and design called airfoils ). Here’s why. Airfoils Plot of a NACA 0012 airfoil. The numbering system gives us information about the airfoil: it has no camber (curve), there is no position of maximum camber, and its thickness is 12% of its chord. Moving at 60 m/s, and with an angle of attack of just 1.7 °, this symmetric airfoil with a chord (length) of 2.0 m will generate a massive 820 N lift per meter of wing width! The behavior of airfoils is described by a branch of aerodynamics called Thin Airfoil Theory (TAT) that is well-developed and characterized by straightforward math that can, to a surprisingly high degree of accuracy, predict the performance of wings. Theodore von Kármán wrote in 1954: “Mathematical theories from th