Friday, June 13, 2008

Aerodynanic Trucks Cut Fuel By 12%


Georgia Tech is always up to something interesting. Scientists at its Research Institute are working on a circulation control system for heavy trucks. Translation: change the way air maneuvers around the truck so there is less drag and less fuel used.

Robert Englar, principal researcher on the project, says they�ve cracked a way to make air blow in a steady current around the back of the truck to lessen the drag that slows the vehicle and causes it to need so much fuel. We�ve seen semi trucks hauling down the freeway with large curved cab roofs that help get the wind up and over the boxy trailer it is pulling. But this design changes the trailer as well, adding curved bumpers on the rear and linking each to a blower that pushes air through them and out the side of the rig. This is supposed to reduce drag and also help push the vehicle forward. And it seems to work. Tests have shown the system to reduce drag by 32% and therefore reduce fuel consumption by 12%. While 12% doesn�t sound all that dramatic, with today�s fuel prices, everything helps strapped truckers. And another way to look at it is this: if installed on heavy trucks throughout the US, it could equate to saving as much as 2.4 billion gallons of fuel a year.

There are a few issues to address before the system is ready to be widely used. For instance, how to make the air blow. One option is a small diesel-powered compressor installed on or under the trailer, alongside refrigeration units. Other possibilities are using pressurized air from the truck�s supercharger, or a chain drive from the trailer�s wheels to turn air blowers. Another possibility of the system is to add the ability to reverse air flow for breaking or in gusty conditions, helping to improve safety as well as efficiency.

While it�s no solution to the overall environmental dilemma of trucking, it could be a great temporary solution while we get biodiesel heavy trucks and hybrid working trucks up and running in larger numbers.

Via AutomotiveWorld, AutoSpeed, Georgia Tech

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