Aerotruck, a resident of Skolkovo’s energy efficiency cluster, has begun exporting its fuel-saving solution to France. The device, known as an aerodynamic skirt, is said to significantly reduce fuel usage in freight trucks and to increase safety for other motorists. Aerotruck is working with the French companies FM Logistic, Gefco, and Fraikin, France’s largest commercial fleet owner.
While Covid-19 has proven itself to be a challenge to our modern civilization, reducing our carbon footprint in the face of climate change remains a looming obstacle. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), transport accounts for around 14-15% of global CO2 emissions, but putting an end to trucks, cars, aircraft, and ships is not a viable solution; without transport, we would run out of food pretty quickly, among the many other problems such measures would entail. But in the same way that the commercial aircraft sector has evolved by making fuel-efficient jet engines – a matter of necessity to survive in a competitive market – so too have various sectors of the motor industry created solutions to reduce fuel consumption. Why spend more on fuel if you can reduce long-term consumption with a relatively small investment? Companies working in the transport sector are coming up with many viable solutions and one of these is the so-called “aerodynamic skirt,” which has already been used commercially for at least a decade and has undergone improvements in recent years.
Aerotruck aerodynamic skirt. Screenshot: https://aerotruck.eu/index-eu.php.
But what is an aerodynamic skirt? At first glance, it seems like a fairly inconsequential object and its use is not immediately apparent to the untrained eye. It is a device that is fixed to the underside of a trailer with the aim of reducing aerodynamic drag. What is aerodynamic drag? It probably need not be said that air is a gas and thus occupies the space all around us, and whenever we move, we displace air. So when a large object such as a freight truck hurtles down a motorway at speed, it displaces air in a similar fashion that an Olympic swimmer displaces water in a swimming pool, albeit in a much more violent and, in some cases, alarming fashion. This creates friction along the surface of the trailer, leading to aerodynamic drag, which in turn increases fuel consumption. At any given time there are tens of thousands of freight trucks on US and EU motorways and if you drive past one at speed, the rushing air may cause your vehicle to jolt. It is precisely this effect that has caused many unsuspecting and exceedingly unfortunate cyclists and motorcyclists to slip under the wheels of passing lorries around the world.
Aerodynamic drag without TrailerTail (top) and with TrailerTail (bottom). Screengrab: https://aerotruck.eu/index-eu.php.
When used in combination, Aerotruck's aerodynamic skirt and tail can reduce fuel consumption by up to 8% as well as increase road safety. The stainless-steel skirt works by preventing displaced air flowing along the sides from entering the underside of the trailer, while the aerodynamic tail decreases the low-pressure zone at the back of the trailer by streamlining the passing air. Also, the fact that the skirt is made of steel makes it more likely that an unwary cyclist will simply rub shoulders with a passing truck rather than go right under it. If used on a large scale, fuel savings can be significant and what makes Aerotruck's solutions stand out from the competition is their price and efficacy.
Aerotruck aerodynamic tail. Screenshot: https://aerotruck.eu/index-eu.php.
According to the company CEO, Almaz Ayupov, the cost of one of its aerodynamic skirts (€1190-€1490) can see a return on investment within a year and comes with a three-year warranty and a ten-year life expectancy. The aerodynamic tail sells for €1390, offering a six-month return on the initial investment, a three-year warranty, and a six- to eight-year life expectancy.
Mr. Ayupov said in a recent statement that, “Our development can save between €1100 and €1600 a year per vehicle and pay themselves off in the space of a year. They can be attached easily to almost any trailer and don’t require drilling or welding. It is far cheaper than our competitors Schmitz Cargobull and Wabco.”
Major clients in Russia include the large food retailer X5 Retail Group, and while Aerotruck is focusing on the French market for the moment, it plans to begin exports to Spain and Germany by the end of 2021.