Trucking is an important mode of transportation and a lot of cargo is hauled and transported by trucks. There has been a lot of pressure to make fuel-efficient trucks. Shell Lubricants has partnered with AirFlow Truck Company for this purpose and created the Starship. It is a big rig fitted with various fuel-saving technologies and is being sent from sea to sea on a road trip to test its performance.
AirFlow Truck Company has been working on improving fuel economy for trucks for quite some time now. Using the expertise provided by Shell relating to the engine and drivetrain components, they have managed to take things up a notch in the form of the third-generation prototype named the Starship.
Taking a look at the tractor and trailer, you will see that it looks more aerodynamic than any truck you might see on the road. It is made from carbon fiber to reduce the weight and designed to slice through the air. There are active grille shutters at the front that close and direct air around the vehicle when the flow is not required by the radiator to cool the engine. This also increases the warm-up time in winters. A boat tail at the rear helps in reducing drag.
A 2017 Cummins X15 six-cylinder engine is used to power the Starship. It generates 400 hp and 1,850 lb-ft of torque. The axle has a downspeed configuration to maintain good pulling power while providing better efficiency. The rubber in the tires is fitted with a custom automatic tire inflation system to keep them at optimum pressure.
There is a 5,000-watt solar array on top of the truck to charge a 48-volt battery bank used to power all the electronic components. The Starship was first revealed to the public at the Shell “Make the Future” event at the Sonoma Raceway the week before. It will start a US coast-to-coast drive next month for testing. The truck will be carrying 80,000 lb of weight and will start from California and will go all the way to Florida.
The team behind the truck will measure fuel economy and freight tonne efficiency during the journey. Shell and Airflow both believe that its the most important measure of freight transportation efficiency. This means maximizing load while reducing fuel consumption and will result in lower running costs and will reduce weight specific carbon emissions. We will have to wait for the results to see how it performs.