Slipperiest truck partnership: Futuristic Starship results

Partners salute trans-American performance of slippery prototype prime mover

Slipperiest truck partnership: Futuristic Starship results
The Starship prototype


The Starship ‘flew’ across the US and backers Shell and AirFlow Truck Company have revealed the prototype truck’s performance.

Nearly two months after the effort was announced and having gone driven more than 3,700km coast-to-coast, the partners report it attained 68.9 tonne-kilometres per litre in in freight tonne efficiency (FTE).

This was a 2.5 times better than the North American average of 27.8 tonne-kilometres per litre.

This occurred "in real-world trucking operations and in real-world conditions", including unplanned stops and heavy rains.

Starship’s total average fuel economy stood at 3.8km kilometres per litre, beating the US average of 2.7 kilometres per litre.

The best fuel economy attained was 4.2 kilometres per litre.

These measurements were verified by an independent third party, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), using an onboard telematics system.

The results are timely, as the global trucking sector seeks to "go further with less"; to reduce fuel consumption while maximising load to lower costs and to meet fuel economy regulations.

The final total truck and cargo weight was about 33.1 tonnes with a payload weight of 18 tonnes of material destined for an offshore reef installation in Florida.

"We are proud that the Starship Truck was able to complete the coast-to-coast run in real-world trucking operations and conditions, including torrential rains. Our goal with this initiative is to challenge how the trucking industry defines trucking efficiency and further discussions with AirFlow Truck Company and other manufacturers," Shell Lubricants technology manager for innovation Robert Mainwaring says.

"Through this road trip, we tested the Starship truck, using technologies available today, to provide insight into how trucking fleets and owner/operators could reduce fuel use and emissions as they haul heavy loads.

"This includes optimised aerodynamics, drivetrain and operational efficiencies, and low viscosity lubricants."

NACFE gave the test its thumbs up.

"The Shell team didn’t take the easy road to trying to achieve the best results they could with their first drive with the truck," executive director Mike Roeth says.

"They knew they wanted to make the truck run, but they went further.

"They carried a much heavier load than many average truckers on the road carry, travelled a longer route in an uncontrolled environment with a variety of technologies not tested in these real-world conditions.

"For us, it was a rewarding opportunity to see the truck move from an idea on paper, and to have travelled with the team on the road to help verify the run results."

Mainwaring says the test and its results are just the first step in process that will see improvements brought to bear.

"These and other learnings are far from the final results, it is simply the start of our ongoing learning," he adds.

"We’ll move forward to apply learnings from this test run and implement additional technologies on the truck for future testing.

"While it would be easy to say the Starship Initiative has been very successful, we know there is more we can do to continue to drive industry dialogue in the future."


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