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January 9, 2018 11:15 AM, EST

Truck Makers May Test Radically Different Aero Cab Designs With SuperTruck II

DOE SuperTruck Department of Energy via YouTube

Today’s tractors are more efficient due in large part to the aerodynamic concepts and ideas that truck makers were able to test under the Department of Energy’s 21st Century Truck Partnership, also known as SuperTruck.

Original equipment manufacturers and DOE are back at it with SuperTruck II, which began in late 2016. While SuperTruck I gave OEMs the opportunity to test the effectiveness of a wide range of aerodynamic configurations, SuperTruck II’s goals are more pragmatic.

The primary goal of SuperTruck II is to show a 100% freight-efficiency improvement in a tractor-trailer combination by either doubling the amount of freight that can be hauled with the same amount of fuel, or cutting fuel use 50%, in a representative customer drive cycle over a 2009 baseline, according to DOE.

Program participants’ constraints “are practical constraints this time,” said Michael Berube, office director with DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office. “Specifically, in [Super Truck II] it’s achieving cost-effective technology; they have to demonstrate why or how it’s cost-effective.”

Truck makers may test radically different cab designs, among others ideas, Berube said. “You reduce the coefficient of drag by optimizing every little bit; how do you smooth out every little surface, how headlights wrap, etc. I expect that’s what [Super Truck II participants] will be doing,” he said.

“We don’t want them to stop and not explore what has promise, but no pie in the sky,” Berube said.