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Swedish researchers in bid to improve truck aerodynamics

21 February 2016

The efforts of commercial vehicle manufacturers to reduce fuel consumption is often to no avail because of air resistance due to poor cabin and trailer design.

Air flow simulation by Petter Ekman at the Swedish National Supercomputer Centre, Linköping University

Erik Alfredsson, owner of Alfredsson's Transport AB in Norrköping, has been working with Professor Matts Karlsson and his doctoral student, Petter Ekman at Linköping University to improve the fuel consumption of commercial vehicles by reducing air resistance.

Using advanced computer calculations at Sweden's National Supercomputer Centre (NSC) at Linköping University, they have produced a body profile for a light truck in which air resistance is substantially reduced without decreasing its load carrying capacity.

Alfredsson has had the vehicle built. The base is a traditional Mercedes light truck that has been given self-supporting floors and new, lighter material in parts of the body. Corners have been rounded off, the wheels have been partially enclosed and the roof has a slight, gentle slope backwards like a wing. Over the 90,000km the truck has travelled so far, its fuel consumption has decreased by at least 12 percent compared with that of the same vehicle with a traditional body.  On average, it consumes approximately 9.1 litres of biodiesel per 100km and can carry a load of up to 950kg.

Alfredsson now wants to go further and work on larger vehicles. "What Volvo, Scania and other vehicle manufacturers do to bring down fuel consumption in the vehicle is quickly eaten up by the large, angular cabinet the vehicle is supposed to pull,” he says.

Air resistance is responsible for a full 30 percent of a truck's total energy consumption; Professor Karlsson bemoans the fact that there is almost no research - and very little research funds to apply for - in heavy vehicle development.

Alfredsson is attempting to buck this trend with the help of Professor Karlsson and his research team, by getting manufacturers of trailers, cargo containers and even those developing driver monitoring systems to work on joint projects.

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