Ensia

How semi trucks can save billions of gallons of fuel

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Courtesy of Ensia

Each year, over two million long-haul trucks crisscrossing America consume nearly 36 billion gallons of diesel fuel. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered that adding drag-reducing devices to trucks could result in billions of gallons of fuel savings. The devises tested included trailer skirts — panels along the lower sides of the trailer that reduce undercarriage drag — and a rear tail fairing — essentially funnel-like panels added to the back of the trailer around the doors that reduce the wake produced by airflow traveling over and around the vehicle.

In a recent news release, lead researcher Kambiz Salari explained, “Even a minor improvement in a truck’s fuel economy has a significant impact on its yearly fuel consumption. For example, 19 percent improvement in fuel economy, which we can achieve, translates to 6.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel saved per year and 66 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere.” At present, only 3 to 4 percent of the nation’s semi trucks use the drag-reducing components tested by the researchers. Adding these devices to a typical long-haul truck could significantly reduce aerodynamic drag and fuel consumption.

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