Dream Big & Dream Small

When it comes to improving fuel efficiency I think it is important to dream big as well as small. We should be focusing on technologies and practices that will result in significant fuel economy gains. Think platooning. Or look at what Shell Lubricants and AirFlow Truck Company are doing to develop what they are calling a hyper-fuel mileage Class 8 truck and tractor combination.

According to a Shell press release, “This next-generation concept truck, nicknamed the StarShip, will feature a completely new design with the aim of breaking current fuel efficiency records for Class 8 trucks after its debut in 2017.” Initial designs call for the StarShip tractor and trailer to join together into a single integrated unit for those operations that consistency link the same trailer to the same tractor.  This will solve the problem of having a gap between the tractor and trailer, which is a big source of aerodynamic drag and loss of efficiency, the company said. The tractor and trailer will also have newly designed side skirts, hood, front end and custom interior.

Striving for big fuel economy gains is important because even if you fail to hit a grand slam you still are likely to get on base, pardon the maybe weak analogy, but it is baseball season.

Nevertheless it’s equally important to continue to look for ways to make incremental improvements. Not every technology we study results in the 5-8% fleets can see when they optimize their electronic engine parameters. But as we have seen in results from our Fleet Fuel Study small gains from using a number of different technologies can aid up to real fuel savings.

So what we need are the big dreamers — the guys and gals with their heads in the clouds who see fuel mileage of 10+ mpg as easily within our grasp and are looking at mpg goals way beyond that.

But we also need the folks who are working on the next trailer aero device or the next idle reduction solution or chassis or powertrain or tire technology or driver behavioral or operational change that will gain one-tenth mile per gallon or so, those base hits, stolen bases and bunts.

The good thing about wanting to improve trucking efficiency is that we have room for and need ideas of all sizes. So keep dreaming whether it’s a big dream or a small one. And make sure to let us know what you’re working on because we’re always interested in hearing about the next advancement in freight efficiency — no matter how big or how small.

TAGS: Technology
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