Aerodynamics key to fuel economy

Sept. 15, 2005
CHATHAM, ONT. Improving aerodynamics is the key factor to improving the fuel economy of Class 8 trucks and is going to be a major focus of trucking research and development dollars in the future

CHATHAM, ONT. Improving aerodynamics is the key factor to improving the fuel economy of Class 8 trucks and is going to be a major focus of trucking research and development dollars in the future.

“At 65 mph, aerodynamic drag represents 50% of the truck’s fuel consumption, with rolling resistance contributing 32% and powertrain efficiency 18%,” explained Ron Schoon, chief engineer for aerodynamics for International Truck and Engine Corp. during a special heavy-truck symposium held here in Chatham, home to its Class 8 truck plant. “And as the speed of the vehicle increases, the drag increases exponentially, resulting in far higher fuel consumption.”

Schoon pointed to several key areas on a Class 8 truck where improving aerodynamics can result in fuel savings. “Air fairings are far and away the largest aerodynamic improvement you can make, reducing drag upwards of 10.5%,” he said. The rest are side extenders to minimize the gap between the truck and trailer (3% drag reduction), chassis skirts around the battery box and fuel tanks (3% reduction), lower bumper to drag underneath the vehicle (1.5% reduction) and aerodynamic mirrors (1%).

For flatbed carriers, Schoon added, side fairings can reduce drag over 6%, but air fairings don’t have as much impact. He also noted that favored traditional trucking designs such as dual exhausts and external-mounted air cleaners negatively impact aerodynamics – each increasing drag between 2% to 4%.

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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