Aerodynamic big-rig prototype cuts fuel consumption to pickup truck levels.
Yes, semis can be green. The tractor-trailers that carry the bulk of the nation’s freight are not exiting the highways any time soon, and with average fuel economy of about six miles per gallon, there is room for improvement. Even at those numbers, a fully loaded big rig hauling up to 36 tons is way more efficient than carrying the equivalent load in a caravan of pickup trucks.
Last year, Peterbilt and Cummins introduced a ‘SuperTruck,’ which reached 9.9 mpg, and could potentially save $25,000 in diesel costs over 120,000 miles. But the Airflow Truck Company’s ‘BulletTruck’ prototype raised that number to 13.4 mpg, barely behind that of full-size luxury cars or pickup trucks, according to the website Green Car Reports. And the BulletTruck did so with a payload matching that of the SuperTruck, around 65,000 lbs. This was no dry run, either – it was a revenue-producing, freight-hauling cross-country trip from Connecticut to California.
When you look at the truck, it isn't hard to see where most of the gains come from: aerodynamics. Along with covered wheels, the BulletTruck adds an extended, faired-in nose cone and smoother sides, letting air hug the body contours rather than thrashing around in turbulence. At the very rear of the trailer unit, a retractable, tapered end section lets airflow leave as cleanly as it arrived, reducing aerodynamic drag. When the average truck uses 50 percent of its fuel just to push air out of the way, it's no surprise the BulletTruck is capable of cutting fuel use that much.
Industry-wide, AirFlow says a fleet of BulletTrucks could save 7.5 billion gallons of fuel, plus 21 million tons of toxic exhaust emissions, annually. Of course, before this green revolution sweeps the trucking industry, a lot of green will have to go to buy the more efficient vehicles. But in the long haul, the BulletTruck and its kin could help shippers squeeze costs from their supply chains, increasing profitability, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and help leave us with a more habitable planet.
10-4, good buddy.