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Shell and Airflow Truck Company's hyper-fuel-efficient Class 8 concept truck—known as the Starship Project—uses technologies that are currently available to minimize the amount of energy it takes to transport a load of cargo from one point to another.

Shell, Airflow Truck debut hyper-fuel-efficient Class 8 concept truck

Shell and AirFlow Truck Company partnered to design a hyper-fuel-efficient Class 8 concept truck capable of reducing the energy usage associated with the transportation of goods. Dubbed the Starship Project, this next-generation concept truck that the two companies partnered in 2015 to build uses technologies that are currently available to minimize the amount of energy it takes to transport a load of cargo from one point to another.

The body of the Starship Project tractor is a bespoke aerodynamic design made of carbon fiber, including the side skirts, hood and front end. A custom, Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved wrap-around windshield was designed specifically for the truck. The trailer includes energy efficient features such as full side skirts to reduce drag and a 5,000-watt solar array on top of the trailer to power interior accessories and reduce the energy load.

The Starship Project truck is powered by a 2017 Cummins X15 Efficiency 6-cylinder engine with 400 hp (298 kW) and 1850 lb·ft (2508 N·m) of torque. The standard engine has been calibrated with the transmission to run at very low speeds and down to 800 rpm.

"We seek projects such as the Starship initiative to keep Shell at the leading edge of technology development and energy efficiency," said Shell Lubricants’ Bob Mainwaring, technology manager for innovation. "The transportation industry is constantly changing, and our goal is to be at the forefront of innovation by collaborating with companies like AirFlow and others to develop creative solutions that provide benefits for years to come."

Shell provided technical consultation on engine and drivetrain components, as well as recommendations for lubricant needs for use in the Starship Project truck. The company says the engine will run on Shell Rotella T6 Ultra 5W-30, which is a low viscosity API FA-4 engine oil that has been formulated to provide better fuel economy, improved high and low temperature performance and meets the requirements for many low emissions engines.  

The Starship initiative provides Shell with an opportunity to test Shell Rotella T6 Ultra 5W-30 in a vehicle prior to its introduction to market. According to the lubricants company, it will be able to gain “valuable information for creating lower viscosity engine oils without sacrificing performance.”

The truck will use a number of full synthetic Shell Lubricants products including Spirax S6 GXME 75W-80 transmission oil, Spirax S5 ADE 75W-80 differential oil and Spirax S6 GME 40 wheel hub oil. In addition, Shell Rotella Extended Life Coolant will provide high-temperature protection and heat transfer. Shell Rotella Diesel Exhaust Fluid, a high purity diesel exhaust fluid, will also be in the truck.

Project testing
The Starship Project will undertake a cross-country run in May that will begin in California and end in Florida carrying a real load of cargo: clean reef material destined for a new reef installation off the coast of Florida later this summer. AirFlow and Shell seek to reduce the energy usage associated with the transportation of goods through improved fuel-economy for a Class 8 truck and the measurement of freight ton efficiency.

"For more than 30 years, Shell has employed co-engineering to increase efficiency and reduce emissions," said Mainwaring. "The relationship with AirFlow Truck Company and other suppliers to build the Starship Project is part of a collaborative process led by Shell that encourages co-engineering and has resulted in a Class 8 truck that will be used to challenge how trucking efficiency is defined."

Obtaining significant fuel economy improvements in Class 8 trucks and trailers is a challenging process given the size and construction of a tractor and trailer. Shell says it recognizes that a holistic approach to making advances is important. Advances in engine and drivetrain technology, the use of low viscosity synthetic lubricants, aerodynamic designs, and efficient driving methods all contribute to increased fuel economy and freight ton efficiency.



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