An Investigation of the Influence of Close-Proximity Traffic on the Aerodynamic Drag Experienced by a Tractor-Trailer Combination 2019-01-0648
Recent research to investigate the aerodynamic-drag reduction associated with truck platooning systems has begun to reveal that surrounding traffic has a measurable impact on the aerodynamic performance of heavy trucks. A 1/15-scale wind-tunnel study was undertaken to measure changes to the aerodynamic drag experienced by heavy trucks in the presence of upstream traffic. The results, which are based on traffic conditions with up to 5 surrounding vehicles in a 2-lane configuration and consisting of 3 vehicle shapes (compact sedans, SUVs, and a medium-duty truck), show drag reductions of 1% to 18% for the heavy truck model, with the largest reductions of the same order as those experienced in a truck platooning scenario. The data also reveal that the performance of drag-reduction technologies applied to the heavy-truck model (trailer side-skirts and a boat-tail) demonstrate different performance when applied to an isolated vehicle than to conditions with surrounding traffic. The results suggest that vehicle shape optimization strategies may differ if the influence of wake effects from surrounding traffic is included in product development cycles. Additionally, truck-platooning benefits should be taken in the context of typical traffic scenarios for which trucks are already experiencing a background-platooning effect and therefore could not be expected to attain the benefits relative to isolate-vehicle conditions.
Brian McAuliffe, Mojtaba Ahmadi-Baloutaki