No, wait, hold on. Kevin McCauley—photographer extraordinaire, friend to our fair publication, and Frequently Bored Photoshop Guru—wants you to just think about it, ok?
And why not? The original Honda Insight, sleek and teardropped like a little glass slipper, had the lowest coefficient of drag on any production car in 1999, at 0.25. The half-hidden rear wheels, tucked under fender skirts, were part of its plan all along.
Over a decade later, the Tesla Model S smashed that record by the smallest of hairs: just point zero one. Car And Driver, in a 2014 issue , corroborated this with a wind tunnel test. With a drag coefficient of 0.24, the Model S beat out the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and Toyota Prius.
But there's always something to improve on.
, General Motors studied whether fender skirts would be a viable way to improve fuel economy. Its engineers found that to incorporate them, cars would need narrower tires in the back, running higher tire pressures simultaneously. (The original Insight ran 165-width tires all around, with the rears mounted narrower than the fronts.) Both options could mess with a car's handling abilities, especially on a powerful, rear-driven machine like the Model S. Of course, said GM's Ed Welburn, designers could widen the rear bodywork to fit both larger rear tires and fender skirts—but doing so would actually cut down on aerodynamic efficiency.
Plus, it costs extra money. In the cutthroat money-squeezing hell of the automotive production trenches, that is never a positive.
Plus, it might look, you know, weird. are one thing, but Tesla owners have dabbled with . "Wow, I think the technical term there is fugly," said one critic. "I wouldn't drive that car even if it went 1,000 miles on a charge."
But hey, if a team of whip-smart engineers can eke out every last drop of wind-cheating aero, all in the name of range extending, then why not? Maybe there's a future where the Model S proudly bears an ancestral resemblance to the Insight, the , the . (But not the .) And maybe the trend will ignite like a SpaceX rocket, and the fender skirt will proudly make its return back to America's highways and byways.
Elon, Franz: have your people call our people.