SmartTruck provides insights to performance of company's aerodynamic devices

Event showcased the different testing methods SmartTruck uses to determine fuel efficiency of its aerodynamic devices.

SmartTruck, a manufacturer of aftermarket aerodynamic trailer devices for the heavy duty trucking industry, sought to provide insight as to how it calculates the fuel efficiency and performance of its equipment. 

Fleet Maintenance was among a select group of media to receive a tour of the SmartTruck world headquarters, located in Greenville, S.C. These facilities included the company's main offices, storage warehouse and fabrication shop. 

The company also provided a tour of the Michelin Proving Grounds tire testing facility in Laurens County, S.C., where SmartTruck utilizes testing tracks to evaluate the performance of its products. 

At the 3,300-acre site, SmartTruck utilizes Track 9 (of the 12 tracks available) for its coast-down testing procedures. 

"Skepticism of fuel efficiency isn't in question anymore," said Mitch Greenberg, chief commercial officer for SmartTruck. "It's now what product is best for my operations.” 

SmartTruck strives to be the leader in the industry when it comes to testing components outfitted to aid in fuel efficiency for fleets, he noted. For this reason, the company shared the range of scientific testing SmartTruck performs in order to evaluate the performance of its products.

Testing methods

Mike Henderson, chief scientist and founder of SmartTruck, presented the different types of testing the company performs to evaluate its product. Prior to founding SmartTruck, Henderson previously worked for more than 34 years in the research and development division of Boeing.

SmartTruck uses four different types of testing:

-CFD testing

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) uses cluster computer testing to provide highly accurate results, according to Henderson. The CFD method has largely replaced the wind tunnel testing within the commercial aviation industry. 

A test setup includes a baseline, or control, vehicle, and a vehicle equipped with the SmartTruck devices. Data retrieved by this method is then calculated using high-end computers. SmartTruck utilizes the NICS (National Institute for Computational Sciences) Kraken super computer at the Oakridge National Laboratory to generate these results. 

With evaluations on the SmartTruck aerodynamic devices using this testing method, a third party company (CD-adapco) evaluated the testing data and determined a mpg fuel efficiency increase of 6.3 percent. 

-Coast-down testing

"Coast-down testing has been the gold standard for drag testing automobiles," said Henderson. He became familiar with this form of ground vehicle testing through his son, who had an interest in motorsports. SmartTruck utilizes a similar method in order to evaluate the performance of its products.

For auto racing teams, a normal coast-down test involves reaching a speed of 205 mph, and coasting down to 150 mph repeatedly. 

(Watch a video of the Joe Gibbs racing team practice coast-down testing at the NASA Kennedy Space Center shuttle landing facility.)

"This issue with commercial trucking is the weight of the vehicle creates a much longer stopping distance," said Henderson. Because of this, SmartTruck initially set up testing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; the same location where the space shuttle has landed.

Henderson and his team have adapted a method approved by the EPA to utilize the Michelin Proving Grounds facility in order to test on a shorter track. They've done this by breaking the testing into two separate segments: the high-speed testing (from 65 to 55 mph) to test aerodynamic drag, and the low-speed testing (from 25 to 0 mph) to test rolling resistance.

Coast-down testing works by accelerating the truck to a certain speed (65 mph) for a set period of time, then allowing the truck to "coast-down" to a lower speed (55 mph) for a set period of time. This cycle is repeated a number of times in a given test run to create repeatable results. 

The test truck and trailer is outfitted with a number of different probes to track air speed, wind resistance, rolling speed, road speed, etc., on rigs with and without the SmartTruck undercarriage/aerodynamic devices. 

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