Truck fuel economy testing to certify heavy trucks may be on the horizon as well as related components to the greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards as more efficient methods come into play. All these regulations were put in place by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) several years ago.
“The EPA Is discussing the use of coast down testing, wind tunnel testing and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) for OEMs to meet the greenhouse gas regulations,” said Mitch Greenberg, chief commercial officer for SmartTruck Systems, an aerodynamic device maker. “EPA is also discussing adopting similar procedures for the SmartWay program to replace the J1321 fuel test currently being used.”
The J1321 fuel mileage test is described as a bit archaic. The test involves a control vehicle and a test vehicle. Both are identical with the test vehicle being equipped with technology that measures fuel efficiency. The testing calls for the fuel consumption of the test vehicle and the control vehicle to be within 2 percent. The testing just takes too long with Mike Henderson, SmartTruck’s chief scientist, noting it took four weeks to complete testing.
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) testing is becoming a much better tool to determine vehicle aerodynamic performance and fuel efficiency levels, according to Henderson. Supercomputers run highly complex calculations that allow engineers to examine the impact of drag on every aspect of a vehicle.
Henderson, who has an aviation background, sees the industry moving to CFD in short order. In the aviation industry, it reduced testing time by 500% and should have a similar impact on the trucking world.
The testing could lead to improving the aerodynamic profiles of trailers, but as Greenberg explains, the current shape is about perfect for hauling freight. There would have to be a significant boost in fuel efficiency in order for that change to be made. Because of that, new testing that could lead to changes in the design of trucks is in the beginning stages. In order to make that change, plenty of data will be necessary to do something so drastic.
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