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Experimental Device Reduces Drag On Tractor Trailers – Increases Fuel Efficiency By 10%

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An experimental fuel-saving device developed at Clarkson University may revolutionize the trucking industry.truck

“The aft end of ground vehicles is often a design compromise between functionality and aerodynamics,” explained Ken Visser, associate professor of Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering. “Traditional transport vehicles have a flat aft end that creates a large drag on the vehicle at highway speeds, which ultimately reduces gas mileage and increases costs and emissions. We have designed extendable flat plates that can be mounted to the truck’s rear doors to reduce drag.”

“The most recent data based on road testing indicates that the device will save approximately one-half mile per gallon, an increase in fuel efficiency of about 10 percent,” said Visser. “This translates into a savings on the order of about $4,000 per year for a truck running 150,000 miles at $2.50 a gallon of fuel.”

Visser and his team of graduate and undergraduate student researchers tested various shapes and created a prototype in 2000. After developing the technology and design, Visser was awarded a grant from NYSERDA and contracted with the Plattsburgh, N.Y.,-based company Composite Factory Inc. to manufacture the device using efficient lightweight composite materials. A design patent for the unique concept is currently in the works.

The next step is a 50-truck fleet test. “Once we can test run this on a larger scale we will really be able to quantify the fuel savings and environmental benefits,” said Visser.

Clarkson University is a private, nationally ranked university attracting enterprising, high-ability scholars from diverse backgrounds who thrive in a rigorous, collaborative learning environment. Learning is in a positive, friendly and supportive atmosphere that spans the boundaries of traditional disciplines and knowledge. Faculty pursue research and connect students to their leadership potential in the marketplace through dynamic, real-world problem solving. The University enrolls 3,000 students.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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