All That's Trucking

Visions of the Future

November 28, 2011

I grew up reading a lot of sci-fi, so I"m intrigued by portrayals of futuristic trucks and transportation.

Mercedes-Benz concept trailer slashes wind drag 18%.



Continental has a pretty impressive set of videos on its global website. Its Future of Commercial Transportation page looks at transportation in the year 2030. Videos show small container pods loaded inside larger intermodal containers, which are transferred between trains, planes, ships and trucks at large, completely automated cargo hubs.

Truck-trains are seen traveling in their own highway lanes, with what look like robotic loaders putting aboard freight containerized. Smaller in-city delivery vehicles, or "cityliners," take the same cargo pods the last mile to their delivery point.

Not long after someone sent me the link to this very cool video, Mercedes-Benz released drawings of new concept vehicles.

The design study from Mercedes-Benz goes by the working title "aero trailer" and shows how it is possible to reduce yet further the already low consumption and thus also the CO2 emissions of state-of-the-art trucks such as the new Actros. Mercedes-Benz presented its ideas for the first time on the occasion of the "Trailer 2011" show show last week in Belgium. The designs cut wind resistance by 18%, fuel consumption by virtually 5%, Daimler says.

Numerous individual measures drastically lower the wind resistance of the entire tractor-trailer unit. A front airdam on the trailer reduces the distance to the tractor unit and lowers the wind resistance by 1%t. Meanwhile side trim panels contribute an 8% improvement. They are slightly drawn-in at the front and characterised by an opening at the rear. This steers the air in the direction of the striking rear diffuser. The diffuser has the shape of a parallelogram and links up with the underbody panelling. This improves the wind resistance by another 1% to 2%.

A rear end taper measuring about 16 inches long forms a crucial part of the aerodynamic concept. It features folding elements to allow access to the load compartment. The rear end taper improves wind resistance by a further 7%.

Some of the features in these concepts are obviously closer than others. Some of the information technology in the Continental video is here today, or pretty close. We're seeing lots of aftermarket trailer aero devices coming onto the market here in North America. It's an exciting time to watch as the future comes alive today.