Martini, H., Bergqvist, B., Hjelm, L., and Lofdahl, L., "Aerodynamic Investigation of Gap Treatment- and Chassis Skirts Strategies for a Novel Long-Haul Vehicle Combination," SAE Int. J. Commer. Veh. 5(2):616-627, 2012, doi:10.4271/2012-01-2044.
Constantly lowering emissions legislation and the fact that fuel prices have increased tremendously over recent years, have forced vehicle manufacturers to develop more and more energy-efficient vehicles. The aerodynamic drag is responsible for a substantial part of the total driving resistance for a vehicle, especially at higher velocities; thus it is important to reduce this factor as much as possible for vehicles commonly operating in these conditions. In an attempt to improve transport efficiency, longer vehicle combinations are becoming more common. By replacing some of the shorter vehicle combinations with longer combinations, the same amount of cargo can be transported with fewer vehicles; hence there is large potential for fuel savings. The knowledge of the aerodynamic properties of such vehicles is somewhat limited, and therefore interesting to study.This paper deals with the aerodynamic properties of a novel vehicle combination, which has a total length of almost 32m, and consists of a tractor unit in combination with two semi-trailers, supported by a dolly in-between the trailers. This vehicle combination was evaluated in terms of aerodynamic properties, by the use of numerical simulations in the form of Computational Fluid Dynamics [CFD]. Both the gap between the cargo-units and the irregular chassis of the trailers are known areas of substantial energy losses; it has also been shown in previous studies that a lot of the drag reduction that is created in the cab region is lost downstream. Hence it was of interest to investigate possibilities for improving these two areas. Two approaches to improve the flow in the gap region were evaluated: coverage of the gap and elimination of the gap. For the chassis treatment, chassis skirts were added along the entire vehicle combination. Eventually, these two strategies were added to investigate their combined effect. In addition, a more practical solution of the gap treatment was tested; a so-called gap-fairing system, which was applied to both semi-trailer units.The results from the simulations showed that there is great potential for the two drag-reducing strategies used. The combined gap treatment and chassis skirts were especially successful; the total drag coefficient was reduced significantly. It was seen that the chassis skirts were far more efficient compared to gap treatment; as a consequence of blocking the main part of the airflow at chassis level in yawed-wind conditions. The practical solution with a gap fairing was shown to be efficient, if used for both semi-trailer units.