Experts help slash supermarket’s fuel consumption

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Experts from Sheffield Hallam University are helping a Barnsley tanker manufacturer to slash a major supermarket’s fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent.

The University’s Hallam Energy consultancy is using techniques more often associated with the design of Formula One cars to improve the aerodynamic performance of tankers which are being developed by Platts Common Industrial Estate-based Road Tankers Northern for Morrisons.

Researchers used Computational Fluid Dynamics to reduce drag generated by the space between the tractor unit and the trailer.

RTN had attempted to narrow the gap between the tractor and trailer but asked Hallam Energy to identify any conflicts and turn them into opportunities for innovation.

Hallam Energy’s Dr Andrew Young says the cavity between tractor and trailer can be made more efficient if the mechanisms for drag generation are well understood.

“The challenge of improving the tanker’s aerodynamic performance while retaining its iconic looks required innovations drawing from sectors including motorsport and marine,” says Dr Young.

“Essentially, a tractor-tanker pairing is a combination of short tractor and long tanker objects, which have different drag characteristics.

Any disruption to the air flow caused by the tractor has to be tolerated by the tanker, and this is where significant gains in performance can be realised.

“By reducing the induced drag and setting up the flow to progress more smoothly, we were able to identify massive potential cost savings that go beyond existing research into tanker fuel consumption.”

RTN’s operations director, Don McKelvie, added: “This project is a superb example of industry and academia working together to make a very saleable product.

“Even the tiniest design changes can have a massive effect on the amount of fuel that is used by these tankers and we are planning to collaborate with Hallam Energy on future projects to see if further savings can be identified.

“The company has been able to redesign its tankers with the proven knowledge that they are lighter and more aerodynamic which translates into fuel efficiency and carbon savings without loss of structural integrity.”

A further project using the University’s state-of-the-art rapid prototyping facilities and wind tunnel means designs can be checked before full-scale tankers are built.