Super Computer helps make energy efficient trucks

6:05 PM, Mar 3, 2011   |    comments
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The Jaguar Super Computer at Oak Ridge National Lab is helping one company make tractor trailers more energy efficient which could save million of barrel of oil every year.

The CEO and founder of Smart Truck said their computer simulation calculates how air flows around a truck.

Jaguar allows engineers to see air flow changes with each change to their design. "The net result of that is the pressure on the back is higher and the drag is lower...this particular package consists of four parts, this is the front fairing and it collects the air coming underneath, rather dirty air coming behind the trailer and underneath, collects it into a high speed nozzle effect," said CEO of Smart Trucks Mike Henderson.

Thanks to the Super computer, the final design consists of bolt on parts to the trailer that reduce drag to improve fuel mileage. "The net result was instead of days to get a solution with a very complicated flow underneath this truck we could do it in hours. The net of that was we got to market in 18 months instead of 3 years," explained Henderson.

For a few thousand dollars per rig, other companies can add this smart truck package to their trailers. The fuel mileage goes up by about 10%. Henderson said if every truck on the road installed it it could lead to 50 million barrels a year reduction in fuel use by the trucking industry.

They also found an unexpected benefit. "With the kit on there it really calms the trailer down you don't have to drive as hard as you normally do," explained Lead Driver for Smart Trucks Scott Shampine.

"We actually get a fuel milage improvement from the reduction in driver activity in addition to the reduction in aerodynamics," said Henderson.

Henderson said the Super Computer could be used to completely redesign a truck. "We can get a 40% to 60% improvement if you integrate both the trailer and tractor design and do it clean sheet," said Henderson.

They hope to have a prototype of the truck of the future on the road in the next two years.

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