Sunday, June 26, 2011

Aero Improvements Give Big Rigs Bigger MPG

Aero Improvements Give Big Rigs Bigger MPG: "

This streamlined tractor trailer is a revolutionary design that could halve the emissions and fuel consumption of the long-haul trucking industry. And it was created over the phone by two people who never met during the entire design process.

FutureTruck is the work of industrial design consultant Jeremy Singley. He had designed everything from power ports to rocking chairs when he was approached by Bob Sliwa of AirFlow Truck Company to develop an aerodynamic truck concept. Singley knew almost nothing about how big rigs were engineered, but with the right software it wasn’t a problem.

“Streamlining is an intuitive process,” he said. “There are basic rules anyone can learn in a short time, but mostly it’s a question of looking at the CFD [computational fluid dynamics] flow lines and pressure areas and saying, ‘Well, let’s see what happens if I tweak this over here.’”

“We did the whole thing over the phone,” Singley said. “I met Bob in person only recently.”

After refining the concept with SolidWorks design software, Singley first created the SuperTruck. The body kit bolts onto existing truck frames, promising to nearly double the average fuel economy of a rig even as proposed federal standards would require higher fuel efficiency from trucks by 2014.

The design eschews the traditional square “portrait” grille that defines so many trucks. While the giant grille may maximize airflow to the engine and intimidate drivers who see it approaching in their rear view mirrors, it offers the aerodynamic efficiency of a refrigerator. Singley’s truck slices the air like a bullet train.

The design has attracted the interest of truck component manufacturers as well as some truckers intrigued by a design that adds efficiency through aerodynamics. Singley says AirFlow is in talks with suppliers to build kits that could attach to existing big rigs.

Singley, however, became fascinated with high-efficiency truck design after creating the SuperTruck.

“The SuperTruck is built on a conventional platform, so things like wheel and cab placement can’t change,” he said. So, he envisioned an entirely new truck design, which became the FutureTruck design study.

“With funding from Vermont EPSCoR [Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research], I’ve been working on a FutureTruck design, a theoretical concept that assumes new tooling from the ground up,” Singley said. “So far this design shows a CFD result of 63 percent drag reduction over a conventional streamliner.”

Images: Jeremy Singley


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