|Trailer with aerodynamic sideskirts.|
Creating an improved aerodynamic shape for heavy-duty truck trailers by mounting sideskirts can cut fuel consumption and emissions by up to 15%, according to road testing by the Dutch research partnership PART (Platform for Aerodynamic Road Transport). PART is a partnership between TU Delft, TNT, Scania Beers BV, FOCWA Carrosseriebouw, Ephicas, Kees Mulder Carrosserieën, Van Eck Carrosseriebouw, Syntens, Squarell Technology, Emons Group and NEA.
Sideskirts are plates which are mounted on the sides of trailers, primarily with a view to underrun protection. The new aerodynamic design of the sideskirts substantially reduces the air currents alongside and under the trailer and thereby also the air resistance.
Initial driving tests with a trailer equipped with the aerodynamic sideskirts over a straight stretch of public road revealed a cut in fuel consumption of between 5% and 15%. Subsequent research comprising long-term operational tests by TNT displayed a fuel reduction of 10%.
These results confirm calculations and findings from the wind tunnel tests that had established that the observed 14 - 18% reduction in air resistance led to 7 - 9% less fuel consumption. In practice, the figures are in fact even better.
PART expects that the cost of fitting aerodynamically-shaped sideskirts will be recouped within two years. Furthermore, the sideskirts can be fitted to approximately half the trucks currently in use in the Netherlands as the skirts can also be retrofitted.
In 2005, 10,000 new trailers were taken into use in the Netherlands. With an average fuel consumption of 30 liters per 100 kilometers [7.8 mpg US], that translates into 750 million liters of diesel consumption in the Netherlands each year. We can cut fuel consumption by 5% or more for 50% of those trailers. That means a reduction of 50 million tons of CO2 emissions a year. This research can therefore result in a substantial, structural contribution to cutting fuel consumption and an annual saving of tens of millions of Euros, next to that cut in CO2 emissions by the road transport sector.
Together with this sector we have created a practical platform for further research and development, but we still need active government participation. Just obtaining permits for all the road tests has involved a huge amount of time, energy and frustration. The next step is realizing a practical partnership between the government and industry in order to put the solutions into practice.—Prof. Michel van Tooren of TU Delft’s Aerospace Engineering faculty
Road tests have also already been initiated on boat tails. These constructions on the rear of a trailer ensure a reduction in the wake—the vacuum and air currents which arise when the trailer is moving. In theory, a boat tail could also mean a cut in air resistance of 30%, with a fuel reduction of 10 - 15%. These road tests should also confirm the earlier, highly positive results from the windtunnel.
Boat tails, however, are limited in practical use, in particular when loading and unloading—safety aspects and problems with exceeding maximum vehicle sizes prevent these being used for many types of vehicles.