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Energy Efficiency airflow-bullet-truck-5

Published on January 9th, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro


An Aerodynamic Trailer Design More Than Doubles Fuel Economy

January 9th, 2014 by  

Originally published on Gas2.

airflow-bullet-truck-5America’s reliance on big rigs to transport tens of thousands of pounds of goods from one end of the country to another comes at a high cost in both fuel and pollution. AirFlow Trucks has debuted a big rig design that more than doubles the fuel economy of traditional semi-trucks, relying mostly on aerodynamics and efficiency improvements rather than fancy hybrid tech.

While traditional big rigs expend as much as 50% of their power just pushing air out of the way, the AirFlow BulletTruck has a much more aerodynamic design that allows it to slice through the atmosphere with ease. While hauling a 65,000 pound load from Connecticut to California, the BulletTruck big rig managed to average 13.4 MPG, more than double the 6 MPG or so most big rigs average while on the road. That’s even better than the Supertruck, another aerodynamically-enhanced big rig with better fuel economy.

In addition to a massive tapered nose and tire-hiding curtains, the BulletTruck uses LCD screens to replace electricity-hungry manual gauges. A hybrid air conditioning and power steering unit reduces parasitic load, and video cameras replace the massive mirrors all semi-trucks currently require. That one change alone can result in a massive MPG gain, and its even better than some hybrid diesel-electric trucks tried out by Coca-Cola.

AirFlow claims that if the industry adopted its BulletTruck design, it would save 7.5 billion gallons of fuel and 21 million tons of exhaust emissions annually. And all without any crazy-expensive hybrid engine technology or alternative fuels. Just a few small changes can save a lot of fuel, as it turns out, and the BulletTruck has a lot to teach the trucking industry.

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Source: Green Car Reports

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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • John

    1) These side skirts cause all sorts of problems that this study missed.
    When you cover the truck and trailer wheels like this, the heat can not escape and the axle bearings fail at a fraction of a normal life.

    2) These skirts will rip right off at the first dip, rail crossing, submerged dock, or any severe change of road grade due to the simple fact that these are long wheel base vehicles.

    3) Aerodynamic benefits can only be measured at high speed, (>60 MPH).
    The average truck speed is below 40 MPH. Half of the time the trailer is just sitting around waiting to be loaded or unloaded, and on the road, it sits in traffic in the metropolitan areas.

    The best way to save truck fuel would be to allow trucks to carry more load at a time and add a third axle to the trailer and truck to reduce the weight on each tire to protect roads and bridges better than today by reducing the load per wheel.

    • Bob_Wallace

      1) Hard to believe. There is still a lot of air flowing beneath the truck.

      2) Make them out of “hard rubber” and mount them so that they are flexible – can ride up over a hump. If nothing else, hinge them and drop them when on highways.

      3) Ever drive on an interstate highway? There are trucks out there hauling ass for long miles. That’s when they burn fuel. They don’t burn fuel when they are parked.

  • BillW

    This seems to be all about the tractor, not the trailer. Also, the article states “video cameras replace the massive mirrors all semi-trucks currently require.” I still see those massive mirrors in the photos, albeit with aerodynamic fairings.

  • driveby

    German designer Colani from years ago:

  • hikerscotty

    wow even the license plate is aerodynamic, this is what the future of transportation looks like

  • Senlac

    Great article, who would think aerodynamics could make such a difference. Put a hybrid engine in it and get a bit more.

  • JimboPalmer

    Is it just me or is this about the tractor, and never really mentions the trailer? I think the Headline Writer never read the article.

    • Omega Centauri

      Yes, I was expecting info on the trailer, which is also important. This tech could be a good start, many trucks pull lots of different trailers, so it is going to be harder to market aero-trailers.

      • Wayne Williamson
        • Omega Centauri

          Its actually more than just the bullet front. Typically the big aerodynamic loss it at the back end, which is where the flow streamline separate (leaving a low presure zone at the backend of the vehicle pulling it backwards). Here is the money quote from the article:

          At the very rear of the trailer unit, a retractable, tapered end section lets airflow leave as cleanly as it arrived, reducing aerodynamic drag

          In the past I heard these refered to as “boat-tails”, and they are supposed to greatly reduce drag. So it is also features added to the trailer.

  • LarsBoelen

    If you can operate a truck-train to bring stuff from Connecticut to California v.v. maybe you need to rethink you prodcution scheme and produce more locally? THAT would save a lot of fuel.
    I really like the low hanging fruit approach though! Nice truck.

  • José DeSouza

    It sure does make a lot of sense. Now, just imagine if the same concept were also equipped with Siemens trolleytruck technology: Wind and solar power could then help save some more additional diesel fuel. Smart, ain’t it?

  • SirSparks

    Wow! That is a better mpg than my Ford Econovan (E150) which with ladders on top only gives me 12.5 mpg. At least it’s easy on my brain power though; 100 miles = 8 gallons.

    • driveby

      I always wondered why there aren’t ladder covers for those tradies to streamline their ladders..

      Business idea anybody?

      PS: they need to be easy get off and get on.


  • Globalthinker

    Don’t forget about Jevron’s Paradox. If this technology reduces the cost of tarnsporting goods by truck, more goods will be transported by trucks giving equal emissions and equal oil consumption nation wide. Just saying. What we need is to stop trying to grow our economy. And we need to stop using fossil fuels to transport goods.

    • Chatteris

      Really important point. No good saving a stash of money on petrol and then blowing it on a trip to Bali. How we reinvest the savings is key – more clean tech, education, books – come to mind as some possibilities for an individual or a family. How enlightened companies could approach this would be an interesting discussion.

    • Bob_Wallace

      There’s nothing wrong with growing our economy as long as we do it in sustainable ways.

      We should strive to give everyone a good place to live, quality food, decent clothing and some toys.

      • driveby

        That depends entirely on the definition of ‘growth’ or better what is ‘growing’.

        The current metrics which are being used and assessed to measure growth are dominantly bad for the planet and our health.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Here’s how Princeton defines economic growth…

          “growth in the productive capacity of the economy (and so a growth of national income)”

          I don’t think there is anything wrong with growth or our way of measuring it. Only in some of our inputs.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “I don’t think there is anything wrong with growth or our way of measuring it. Only in some of our inputs.”

            A different Bob had something to say about this a while back.


  • Chatteris

    And you don’t even have to believe in climate change to think it’s a good idea! This is the way to go – produce technology that will save people money as well as saving the planet and they’ll use it, in droves.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It’s how you save the planet. You make cleantech stuff more affordable than dirtytech stuff.

      People do the right thing for personal short term gain.

      • tibi stibi

        which will be the case in most situaties. in the end what you pay is energy. and saving energy is what it is all about.

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