Increasing efficiency in trucks

by: Mirjam Visser, 2011-06-13 08:52:17 UTC
Sustainability Aspects: Nearly 20% of the transportation emissions in the US are from trucks. This saves 12-15% of it.

The Story

side skirts

Engineers all over the country are developing more aerodynamic truck concepts. The trucking industry in the United States, burns up 39 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year. Today, heavy trucks average around 5.5 miles per gallon, whereas the 1982 average was only 4 mpg. Still, there is plenty of room for improvement.

One of the biggest reasons for trucks’ low efficiency is drag problems, which become worse with higher speed. Accordingly, researchers have focused on reducing drag effects on trucks, and in the last few years several have announced breakthroughs. At high speeds, the square edges of the truck begin to generate a vortex which acts opposite to the direction of motion. This vortex increases the energy required from the truck engine, and drags down fuel efficiency.

Controlling Vortex Formation and Directing Airflow

At the back

At Georgia Tech researches developed a solution at the back of the truck. This design works to prevent drag in two ways. First, rounded panels are added to the back of the truck to prevent vortex formation. Secondly, a system blows compressed air over the edges of the truck. This step is necessary to redirect the airflow and prevent it from collapsing into a vortex. The compressed air may be provided from a variety of sources, such as exhaust gas, air off the truck’s turbocharger, or an onboard air compressor.

This gas could also be directed to slow the truck during braking, which would save energy and help make trucks safer.

At the bottom

BMI, South Caroline, developed UnderTray. Skirts which are attached underneath the truck/trailer to fill the gap in between. This is also said to increase the efficinecy with 12%

Real world tests demonstrate that this system reduced drag by 35%, which translates into a 12% increase in fuel efficiency.

At the side

Dutch researchers (Delft Technical University) have recently completed real-world tests demonstrating the effectiveness of side skirts, which are mounted along the sides of the truck’s trailer. This new design is a more aerodynamic side skirt than has traditionally been used. It creates less drag and directs air flow away from the underside of the truck. Tests on the side skirts have shown a fuel efficiency increase of as much as 15%, making the technology a very promising one indeed. Additionally, the side skirts are easy to install, as they are a simple retrofit and may be customized themselves.

You wonder what happens if you use them all together. They all pay themselves back within 12-18 month!

Product: divers
Designer: divers
Manufacturer: divers
Category: Energy efficiency


side skirts
side skirts
by TUD

Comments by our Users

Be the first to write a comment for this item.


@ D4S, a platform by designers for designers, sharing ideas and knowledge on sustainable design
Learn more |  Leave Feedback
We are not-for-profit and want a trustworthy, independent site without advertisements.

If you like to use D4S please donate to enable us to pay hosting fees and extend the site. Thank you for your support!
Join us on LinkedIn