Rebuilding trucks from the ground up

A new partnership between Advanced Transit Dynamics and truck maker Navistar under the SuperTruck program sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) is going to search for ways to improve the entire aerodynamic profile of tractor-trailers as a single, integrated unit. Announced at the Technology & Maintenance Council's 2010 annual meeting in Tampa, FL, the two companies will share a $37.3 million

A new partnership between Advanced Transit Dynamics and truck maker Navistar under the SuperTruck program sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) is going to search for ways to improve the entire aerodynamic profile of tractor-trailers as a single, integrated unit.

Announced at the Technology & Maintenance Council's 2010 annual meeting in Tampa, FL, the two companies will share a $37.3 million grant under the auspices of the DOE's project, which seeks a 50% improvement in freight efficiency for on-highway Class 8 trucks, measured in ton-miles per gallon.

“While the trailer add-on devices we provide today deliver up to 12% in fuel savings at highway speeds, working with Navistar in the SuperTruck project will allow us to exceed those aerodynamic efficiency gains by contributing to a ground-up redesign of truck-trailer combinations,” Andrew Smith, CEO of ATDynamics, said.

Smith told Fleet Owner that the project targets a number of areas on tractor-trailers, including engine efficiency, thermal efficiency, and weight reduction of the tractor's chassis. Yet he believes a “clean-slate” reworking of the entire tractor-trailer aerodynamic profile, incorporating any number of design changes, should provide the biggest chunk of the improvement.

At highway speeds, Smith noted, aerodynamic drag accounts for as much as two-thirds of the fuel consumed by Class 8 trucks. And because aerodynamic drag directly affects the level of power required at the wheels to move a vehicle, aerodynamic improvements will leverage the thermal-efficiency gains, powertrain hybridization and other upstream enhancements.

Smith also pointed out that prior to the SuperTruck project, advances in trailer aerodynamics were typically pursued independent of truck design. Now, they will be pursued jointly, allowing for any design improvements to be incorporated on the factory floor instead of being “bolted on” in aftermarket fashion.

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