‘Big Rig’ Fuel Savings

Back in Nov 09, I wrote about a “boat tail” add-on for tractor-trailer rigs invented by the University of Delft in Holland to dramatically improve fuel mileage for big-rig truckers. Now, Georgia Tech has shown a less obtrusive approach to reducing aerodynamic drag and improving fuel economy.

Georgia Tech's fuel saving big-rig modification

According to the ScienceDaily.com article, “Trucking accounts for 19 percent of our overall fuel consumption … 39 billion gallons of diesel each year. One big reason is drag. At highway speeds, airflow across the square edges on the back of a tractor trailer creates a vortex that works against forward motion. That vortex burns fuel.”

“Georgia Tech estimates their design for reducing that vortex could increase fuel efficiency by about 12%. If applied to the country’s entire 18-wheel trucking fleet, that adds up to savings of 2.4 billion gallons of diesel a year.”

In more familiar terms, that’s a saving of around 160,000 barrels per day – not much more than a drop in the bucket of our 9million BPD foreign oil habit, but significant none the less.

NOTE: Numbers in the article aren’t quite consistent. It appears GaTech is prudently taking credit for only about half the to theoretically possible 12% improvement.

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