Is this the future of trucking? – Ultra-aerodynamic trucks

By ahmadzulizwan, 01 July 2018
Airflow Starship

Shell and Airflow Truck Company has come out with the Aiflow Starship, basically an innovative step in reducing emissions and embarked to explore the future of truck design, fuel economy savings, and CO2 reduction. It’s not for production, but essentially showing what is possible with a better truck design.

The Starship comes with a bespoke hyper-aerodynamic cab design made entirely of carbon fibre. It also features active shutter grilles that open and close based on engine cooling needs. Once the shutter is closed, aerodynamic drag is significantly reduced which in return reduce fuel consumption. The boat tail is also streamlined using elongated side panels and side skirts.

The engine is a 15-litre 2017 Cummins X15 with six cylinders that make 400bhp and 2,508Nm of torque. The gearbox is an 18-speed automated manual (AMT). The fuel tank has a capacity of 100 (US) gallons.

Its advanced efficiency comes from the hybrid axle electric system that provides boost particularly when driving an incline where the most fuel is consumed per mile. The hybrid axle uses regenerative braking to charge the battery pack by capturing energy while decelerating or while descending a gradient.

We’re not sure if this a usual thing in trucks but the Airflow Starship comes with an Automatic Tyre Inflation System (ATIS) to ensure consistent tyre pressure thus providing optimal fuel economy. The system is not only for the cab but also the trailer’s tyres.

Speaking of the trailer, it also helps with efficiency as the roof comes with a 5,000 watt solar array that charges the main 48 volt battery bank on the tractor. The battery bank powers the cab air-conditioning and inverter. Other electrical components such as lights, wipers, blower motors, and gauges are also powered by the battery bank.

Naturally, Shell provides all the lubricants and other liquids required. The engine runs with fully synthetic 5W-30 Shell Heavy Duty engine oil. Additionally, the Airflow Starship uses Shell Rotella DEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid and Shell Rotella Extended Life Coolant. As for the transmission, it uses Spirax oil, including for the differential and wheel hub.

Airflow Starship

This next-gen class 8 truck has already embarked on a coast-to-coast run, from San Diego, California on 18 May to Jacksonville, Florida which ended on 24 May. With a full load and gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds (36,287kg), the Airflow Starship finished its more than 3,700-kilometre journey with a recorded 8.94mpg or equivalent to 26.3L/100km.

Now, that does not seem impressive, but the real gauge to use is Freight tonne efficiency (FTE) because a light load can give better consumption compared to a heavy one (using the same vehicle and distance) but may not be as efficient as loading up the weight – thus reducing trips. The mantra is apparently: load up – go slow – go heavy.

In view of this the Airflow Starship delivered its almost 40,000lbs (18,143kg) of reef material with an FTE of 178.4 ton-miles per gallon. This is a 248 per cent improvement over the class 8 industry average of 72 ton-mpg.