Big rigs go through a lot of miles each year as they carry goods all around the country that we all rely on to live. Big rigs are massive vehicles that weight a lot and they use a lot of fuel to pull heavy loads around the country. The US Department of Energy teamed up with four major truck makers to try to develop a big rig that was more fuel-efficient.
The DOE wanted a truck that was 50% more efficient than the trucks on the road today. One of the companies that the DOE sponsored in the program was Freightliner and its SuperTruck prototype destroyed the goals of the DOE. The prototype truck is 115% more efficient than current big rigs.
That feat was accomplished by making the truck as aerodynamic as possible with skirts that fill gaps between truck and trailer. The vehicle is able to hunker down on the highway to make its self more aerodynamic. Freightliner also ditched some weight from the truck making it 320 kilograms lighter than current trucks.
Another key that helped to achieve efficiency was reducing friction in moving parts of the truck from wheels to the engine. Efficiency was also optimized by making the truck with a hybrid powertrain and a waste heat harvesting system. Heat gathered from the exhaust is sent back to the hybrid powertrain. The truck even has solar panels on top of the trailer to harvest extra energy. The SuperTruck managed 12.2 mpg in testing while pulling 65,000 pounds, more than twice as efficient as a standard truck with a similar load. The catch is that some of the components needed to make a vehicle this efficient aren’t economically viable right now. .