Earlier this week, Audi filed a patent for 2 engineering ideas. The simpler, and more interesting of the two, was for hinged flaps that are placed inbetween the spokes of an allow wheel.
As the wheel spins faster and faster, the flaps rotate inwards to create a completely flat wheel cover.
According to Audi’s patent filing, the fully inclosed wheels smooth out airflow at high speed and help improve the overall aerodynamic performance of the vehicle, as the wheels help change air pressure underneath the vehicle as well.
When the vehicle slows down, the flaps rotate back open.
Audi is obviously concerned with brake component heat, so the flaps also open if the braking surfaces become too hot. We couldn’t find any information if the opening due to heat was a mechanical or sensor/electrical control.
Back at the Detroit Auto Show in 2013, the Ford Atlas Concept also included active wheel shutters that opened merely with speed changes, regardless of brake temperatures – they didn’t make it to the production F-150.