Things are moving from strength to strength with new designs, new enquiries and now new offices. Our growing team now has new space to develop and test our ideas. Very exciting.
In last few years we have pioneered new ways for vehicles to save fuel. Focusing on the lowest cost methods for doing this. All our designs are tested on the road as soon as they can be but real life road conditions can make it difficult to fully understand what’s going on and what can be improved further.
In the past we’ve used very basic computer simulation models to guide the designs, but now we’ve been truly blessed. Autodesk (possibly the world's leaders in computer design modelling and simulation software) have just awarded us a place on the Clean Tech Partner Program and in doing so given us access to nearly £100,000 worth of design and simulation software!! Such an incredible gift and their generosity has left us speechless and super excited to think what we could design next. We can’t wait to try it out.
Thank you so much Autodesk for believing in us and our ideas.
Clean Tech Partner
Let's Catch up.
A lot has changed since we started on this aerodynamic adventure and I feel a summary of some things are in order...
Over the last 10 years, diesel prices in the UK have nearly doubled.
Encouragingly we’re starting to see a settling of the fuel price (shown here as the average UK price of Diesel per litre) in the last few years which is good news. But energy issues are always hot political issues and with recent turmoil in the Ukraine and as ever in the Middle East, we should become complacent.
Understandably, every trailer manufacturer and many fleet operators have been investigating ways in which they can make their trailers more fuel-efficient and more cost effective to run.
As you might expect (coming from an aerodynamics expert) a very simple but highly effective option is to look at the aerodynamics of the trailer. You’re dragging around a big brick and at 30 mph overcoming the aerodynamic drag accounts for approximately 30% of the total energy use of the vehicle. At motorway speeds however, this rises dramatically to between 60% and 75% in some studies [Browand 2010].
At 56 mph, over 60% of the energy needed to move the trailer is because of drag.
The increase in aerodynamic drag in relation to speed is exponential: The faster the vehicle moves, the greater the resistance. So if you’re vehicles regularly drive at speeds of around 30 mph, aerodynamic improvements could help. But if you drive faster than 40 mph, they’re essential.
What can be done to make a trailer better?
Improving the aerodynamics of a large box is relatively easy to do. The difficult part is making it affordable.
The trailer causes approximately 75% of the total drag of the vehicle. [Wood et al. 2003]
1. Air rising over the roof and bridging the gap between the truck and trailer (approx 20%)
2. Air coming off the back and filling the partial vacuum as the vehicle moves forward (approx 25%)
3. Air moving down the side and underneath the trailer (approx 30% of total drag)
The best place to start has the biggest impact and is also the easiest to improve.
Airflow sweeping under the body of the trailer increases the vehicle drag due to chaotic turbulence and pressure drag on the under-body structures, including the wheels and the axles. This under-body drag increases considerably with crosswind effects.
Trailer side-skirts minimize the under-body drag by covering these structures from the forward airflow and crosswinds.
So what kind of fuel savings could you expect?
Our Skirt design, which is perhaps the simplest design it is possible to produce, created fuel savings of around 3% at MIRA track testing. This was without any wind conditions or other traffic and so does not reveal the full potential saving that might be possible. This is shown in a study based on UK wind statistics alone, where the researchers estimated that the corresponding wind-averaged drag reductions due to the trailer skirts are 4 - 6% [Mohamed-Kassim et al. 2010].
As we discussed after a recent trip to the US in January. On the road fuel saving results for their very simple designs were generating fuel savings of between 3.6 - 7.4%.
We have also monitored the fuel consumption of a customer's trailer and when compared to a standard unmodified trailer in their fleet we're seeing fuel savings of around 4%.
Some takeaway thoughts
So in summary we conservatively expect trailer side skirts to save between 2 - 5% of your fuel bill.
The real question now is does implementing that improvement cost you more than you save? For almost all the side skirts we have seen out there available in the UK, we'd have to say yes. The main reason for this is their over complexity, heavy weight (sometimes 200 - 250kg) and cost of repair.
The need for a simpler product with a much faster payback was the reason we started and I think it's still valid today.
- Browand F., , Reducing Aerodynamic Drag and Fuel Consumption, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Southern California
- Wood R. M., Bauer S. X. S., , Simple and Low-Cost Aerodynamic Drag Reduction Devices for Tractor-Trailer Trucks, SAE International 2003-01-337
- Mohamed-Kassim Z., Filippone A., , Fuel savings on a heavy vehicle via aerodynamic drag reduction, Transportation Research Part D 15, 275–284
Wow this is a crazy looking trailer design! Walmart have been working on their sustainability and came up with some great vehicle concepts. This incredible looking vehicle is 20% more aerodynamic than their standard vehicles, has a hybrid engine and also uses the largest carbon fibre panels ever made!
Carbon Fibre Trailers
Happy New Year everybody! Sadly Father Christmas couldn’t stretch to the P1 this year... oh well.
To start the new year, I'd like to try and share some ideas and things we've found from around the world. I've been thinking about doing this for a while now and the lull after Christmas has been the perfect chance to finally get things written down.
Where to begin, well on a recent trip to the US we saw many great examples of products that have been designed to improve the aerodynamics of large trucks and trailers, so to start we'll explore one of these.
First it's important to note that the rules on truck and trailer design in the US are much less stringent than they are in the EU, for one, none of the large HGV trailers have under-run bars or side guards, which is quite unnerving.
As you can see, there's quite a gap here....
And obviously, filling this gap with a side skirt (as we have shown with our own tests) will save fuel. In the US there are lots of suppliers of these skirts with the most common design being a simple flat panel which hangs from the super structure.
It's such a simple concept and as the following fuel saving data shows, a really effective one.
These are impressive figures for something so simple and something we can definitely replicate with our own designs for EU vehicles. Not only do these save fuel but they also make the vehicle safer. Good work.
Some ideas from the US
3.6 - 7.4 %
3.9 - 7.4 %
4 - 6 %
Wow... Well I'm not sure where we've been to have missed this, but this car is incredible. Please Father Christmas, I've been good!
This thing of beauty is the McLaren P1 and their great tag line for it is that it's been "Designed by Air". As you might expect there's a great website to go with it and plenty of images. Enjoy!
Please Santa, I want one of these!
Well, we're off. The new fibreglass (version 2) Tail is here and we need to see what it can do, and what better than an 800 mile trip to Edinburgh for the weekend and back! Leaving Bath at 9pm gave us uninterrupted clear roads all the way up, but perhaps a little on the dull side.
But anyway, it's done now and the results are in... 41.34 mpg which brings our average for motorway driving to an 8.5% fuel saving. In other words this trip would have cost me roughly £8.70 (at £1.40 a litre) more without it. That's a saving of roughly £350 a year on the mileage I do. That's a couple EasyJet Flights somewhere nice. Not bad.
It's a big day. We went down to the MIRA testing facility for an important week of trials on our Skirt product and luckily for us, the weather was looking good. Due to the nature of trying to run a precision test, the weather must be consistent and good (no wind, rain, fog etc...) as all this can introduce uncertainties into the data. So after 4 long days of testing we have some exciting results:
Travelling Speed Fuel Saving Annual Cost Saving Return on Investment
(Based on a £48,000 average annual spend)
30 mph 1.1% average £528 22 months
40 mph 2.4% average £1,152 10 months
56 mph 2.9% average £1,392 9 months
On the road to Scotland!
A week at the track with MIRA
For 3 days in September the Aerotails team took part in an Engineering Entrepreneurship Training Programme, run by the Bath Innovation Centre. It was 3 days of workshops, talks, lectures and discussions on building engineering businesses and how to finance them, ending in a business plan pitch competition to some potential investors. We're very proud to announce that we came top. Thank you very much to the course organisers and sponsors, this was a very helpful few days.
If you're involved with the maintenance and running of big truck fleets, you're sure to have heard of a tyre company called Bandvulc. They are without a doubt some of the nicest people I have had the pleasure to work with. They are also now testing a Skirt for us on their long distance run. This is an almost daily route between their factory near Plymouth and a distribution centre near Manchester and is perfect for testing. Same driver, same truck, same route and same load. Ideal.
David playing hide and seek not particularly well.
More user trials...
After the success of the MultiModal Show in April. We've been inundated with interest. Including, I believe from Europe's largest trailer builder. All very exciting indeed. But they have a challenge... Their trailers aren't like the rest of them, they have an interesting flip up solid side crash bar, that won't work with our current design... We better get our thinking caps on for this one.
Designing for a different kind of trailer
FTA Low Carbon Event
It is with great pleasure and pride that I have been asked by the Freight Transport Association to give a presentation on the role of aerodynamics in low carbon transport and to sit on the panel to answer any questions on the subject. With me on the panel was Justin Laney - General Manager for the John Lewis Partnership and Martin Flach - Product Director for Iveco UK.
It was a fantastic event. A great chance to show the audience what we knew and have learnt. Many thanks to the FTA for inviting me along.
Taking my design to the next level
Let's be honest. The proof of concept product which we made for the van tail looked awful. But it allowed us to test the concept on the road and get some very valuable data. But we need to make it look better if anyone is going to want it on their vehicles. All design work is an iterative process, you make something, test it and then make something new. All the time getting better and better and hopefully also looking cooler and cooler. So this is the start of version 2.
Here we go! Our first big trade event, and what a great choice this one turned out to me. MultiModal is a big show each year at the NEC which showcases hauliers, freight companies, ports and trains. Anyone who moves stuff is there.... oh and little old us!
After 3 exhausting days on our feet, we've made some superb contacts and had many interesting conversations with potential customers, interested observers and truck anoraks. Definitely worth it.
Wow what a huge event, countless exhibitors in what seemed like the entire of the NEC. After 2 days of walking round, I'm not sure I saw everything. Definitely a show to come back to next year and hopefully exhibit at in the future.
Commercial Vehicle Show
At the end of last year we worked closely with the University of Bath on a series of wind tunnel tests for some concept trailer designs. The whole process was very rewarding and has steered our development and design work in a number of directions. But you'll have to wait and see.
Back in the Wind Tunnels
Just over a year since we launched the business, we're moving into an office and joining one of the world's most successful business incubators and support organisations. It is a huge privilege to be involved with them and a massive vote of confidence in what we're trying to do.
Oh my goodness. I've been to quite a few trade shows in my time, but autosport is up there. Some amazing spectacles and some rather unusual aerodynamic modifications....
A first prototype
Aerotails is a word we've invented to describe the pattern of air that occurs when air passes over or around something. This swirly mess of turbulent air causes drag on your vehicle and slows you down. The amount to which it slows you down is proportional to your speed. Vans move at much higher speeds then trucks and so we should be able to make some big savings if we can improve the aerodynamics.
Now the rear doors of a van are usually completely flat, this is not (aerodynamically) a good design and some have argued that aerodynamically a van might be better going backwards than forwards. This is because the shape more closely resembles a tear-drop shape when moving backwards.
We think we have a solution. What if we could fit a curved shape to the back doors, in a really simple and quick way that improves the vehicle shape, reduces the size of these chaotic Aerotails and thus saves fuel.
Cardboard and gaffa type is always the right place to start... and this first effort wasn't bad. It shows the idea, an angled tear-drop shape that fits to the doors but still allows them to open easily. I'm just not so sure I want to drive around with some cardboard on the back of the van...
That's better, some nice all weather plastic, a hot line bender and just a little more gaffa tape. OK, so it's not much of a looker, but as a proof of concept it's perfect. Now to put some serious mileage on this baby and see how the figures come out.
The Engineering Innovation Network (South West) is a support group of businesses involved in the automotive sector. They help fund and support innovation and there assistance with Aerotails has been amazing. We're so thankful for their support and encouragement. Thank you!
With the recent launch of our first two trucks on the road, we couldn't resist fitting another. This time though we were able to demonstrate how the design can be adjusted to fit any type, shape or model of trailer. By building the skirt panels around the existing features we can get fuel savings, no matter the vehicle.
Another Customer Trial
An amazing day indeed. We've just fitted our first two trailers and have sent them out into the world! These trailers will be perfect for measuring product reliability and durability. It's essential to get the product out there and 'dirty' as soon as possible to see how it behaves. So far so good...
Our first chicks leave the nest
Our eternal thanks to the unknown truck spotter who caught this rare beast 'in the wild'. Tea and biscuits on us.
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Well it's official. I've met the bank manager and now have a company. Exciting times ahead. Wish me luck.
A meeting with the Bank Manager