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Shell sponsoring new “hyper-fuel mileage” tractor-trailer design

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Fleet Owner / March 27, 2015

Lubricants is stepping outside of its traditional “fluid engineering” box in the trucking world to help sponsor the development of a new “hyper-fuel mileage” Class 8 tractor-trailer design being built by the AirFlow Truck Company (http://www.airflowtruck.com/) and its principal owner and designer, Bob Sliwa.

At a press event here at the Mid America Trucking Show (MATS), Dave Waterman – North American marketing manager for the Shell Rotella engine oil brand – noted that this “next-generation” concept truck, nicknamed the “StarShip,” is being built by Airflow in a 6,400 ft. garage in Connecticut and should be ready for testing by late next year.

“We’ll be doing shake down testing and some regional runs by the third quarter of 2016, with coast-to-coast by the fourth quarter of 2016,” Silwa noted.

He added that he rolled out first “hyper-fuel mileage” concept vehicle, dubbed the “Bullet Truck,” back in 2012. Crafted from a 2003 model Kenworth T2000 over a period of three years, Silwa said it achieved average fuel economy of 13.4 mpg under load on aa cross-continental haul from Connecticut to California.

“I actually averaged 14.1 mpg until we ran into 35 mph headwinds in Laramie, WY,” he noted.

The new “StarShip” vehicle (seen at right), however, is being built on a 2016 Navistar International ProStar chassis, which will include a 2010-compliant engine equipped with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) emission control technology.

“We’re building our own cab for this concept and will be 100% EPA certified to operate on the road,” Silwa said. He’ll be loading the StarShip tractor-trailer combination with ballast up to 65,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight; a GVW he said 70% of today’s freight-hauling trucks opera Initial He added that initial designs call for the StarShip tractor and trailer to join together into a single integrated unit.

“This will solve the problem of having a gap between the tractor and trailer, which is a big source of aerodynamic drag and loss of efficiency,” Silwa stressed.

The StarShip tractor and trailer alike will feature side skirts, hood, front end and custom interior, along with a tractor-to-trailer “active aerodynamics” gap sealer.

Both the gap sealer and trailer skirts will retract below 35 mph or when coming up on obstructions such as a railroad crossing, etc., Silwa said.

Waterman said noted that while Shell will be providing some engine and lubricant to the StarShip project, Silwa will remain the chief owner, designer and driver of the vehicle.

Waterman also emphasized that the project will use “fuel ton efficiency” as its guiding metric. “That more effectively measures fuel efficiency when fully loaded,” he explained.

Selda Gunsel, vice-president of technology for Shell Global Solutions, noted in a separate statement that the pursuit of significant fuel economy gains for class 8 trucks and trailers is a challenging process given the size and traditional construction of a tractor and trailer.

With new fuel economy regulations on the horizon and the need for continuing advances in fuel economy, Gunsel said Shell “recognized” that a “holistic approach” is needed to generated larger fuel economy gains, including advances in engine and drive train technology, the use of low viscosity synthetic lubricants, aerodynamic designs, efficient driving methods and more.

“That’s why we intend to stay at the forefront of innovation – collaborating with companies like AirFlow to develop creative solutions that will benefit the industry for years to come,” Gunsel explained.

“During our continuous on-highway testing of Shell Rotella engine oils and other lubricants, we always seek to understand how efficiencies can be gained across the whole truck,” added Chris Guerrero, global brand manager for Shell Rotella.

“Aerodynamics plays a big role in achieving higher fuel economy and we look forward to working with Bob Sliwa and AirFlow Truck Company on the evolution of an all-new hyper fuel mileage tractor and trailer,” he said.

In other news, Kate Faucher – global transport marketing projects lead for Shell Lubricants – provided an update on the PC-11 engine oil spec development process at Shell’s MATS press event:

  • In development since 2013, final specs for the PC-11 category are right now expected to be released March 1, 2017;
  • Two PC-11 requirements – for scuffing and compatibility with biodiesel – have officially been scratched from the PC-11 draft standard;
  • Two subcategories – dubbed PC-11 A and PC-11 B – are being developed, with PC-11 A designed to backward compatible while PC-11 B won’t be;
  • PC-11 B is being formulated as a thinner viscosity 30 weight oil focused on delivering maximum fuel economy, thus why it won’t be backward compatible;
  • At the moment, PC-11 A will be designated CK-4 when officially licensed in 2017; PC-11 B is being tentatively titled FA-4, with the “F” standing for “fuel economy.”



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The roots of such aerodynamic truck design architecture stem back to Preston Trucking (The 151 Line), where impressive cutting edge American innovation was spurred by Caterpillar's National Fuel Conservation Challenge.


Preston Trucking, I feel, was remains the best LTL carrier to ever operate in these United States.

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Shell Rotella nears completion of Starship concept rig aimed at hyper efficiency

James Jaillet, Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ)  /  September 21, 2017

Shell’s futuristic concept tractor-trailer, dubbed the Starship Initiative, is on track to be completed within the coming months and could perform a cross-country efficiency test run as early as the first quarter of 2018, the company announced Sept. 21.

The rig, which is being built by AirFlow Truck Company, aims to combine already-existing technologies to create the most efficient truck in the world, as measured by freight ton efficiency, says Shell and Bob Sliwa, head of AirFlow and the project’s chief designer.

The Starship will lean heavily on lightweighting and aerodynamics. “We’ve obsessed about its aerodynamic shape,” says Shell Rotella’s Bob Mainwaring, the Technology Manager for Shell’s Innovation segment. He pointed to the truck’s front end, the tractor-trailer gap closure systems, aerodynamic skirts that run around the entire truck and trailer, the trailer’s tail and under-the-tractor aero systems, all of which combined “halve the aero drag of the vehicle compared to the standard U.S. truck today,” he says.

Relative to lightweighting, the truck’s cab is made of carbon fiber, “which is ridiculously light,” he says.

Shell’s work and investment in the Starship Initiative is part of the company’s focus on the future of energy use and transportation, Mainwaring says. Initiatives must be taken today to find solutions to meet the global energy demands anticipated for 2050, Mainwaring says.

“We’re using technologies available today to design an energy efficient truck capable of reducing energy usage associated with goods transport in a material way,” he says. “The main aim of the Starship is to attempt to minimize the amount of energy it takes to transport a load of cargo from Point A to Point B.”

There’s no mpg target for the truck’s cross-country test run likely to occur early next year, says Megan Pino, global brand manager for Shell Rotella. “We don’t think acheiving a specific number is necessary to showcase success,” she says. Instead, “we’re challening ourselves to see how good we can be.”

Shell originally announced the project in March 2015, and work has been underway since to design and build the tractor-trailer concept.


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Shell’s Starship Truck Focuses on Freight Efficiency First

Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  September 22, 2017

Shell Rotella’s next-generation concept truck, nicknamed the Starship, is set to debut early in 2018 and the company says it will focus on freight efficiency rather than raw miles per gallon.

The truck, which the company has been teasing since 2015, is a collaborative effort between Shell and the Airflow Truck Company, which builds custom Class 8 trucks and trailers designed to push aerodynamic, fuel-efficient design. For this project, the cab of the truck and the trailer are being custom made to reduce weight and rolling resistance while streamlining aerodynamics.

While not designed to be put into production, the concept vehicle is also not supposed to represent a far-flung future. Bob Mainwaring, Shell Lubricants technology manager for innovation, explained to reporters at a California briefing this week that it is Shell’s vision for 5-15 years in the future.

A lot of emphasis was placed on freight ton efficiency as the primary metric for the Starship vehicle, eschewing fuel economy as the be-all and end-all of fuel efficiency. Mainwaring described freight ton efficiency as maximizing the usefulness of fuel mileage. When tuning a vehicle for fuel economy, the best way to achieve it is to run lightweight and slow, he said. However, using gallons per ton-mile instead of miles per gallon incentivizes carrying as much weight as possible as efficiently as possible.

“Go Slow, Go Heavy” is the mantra for thinking about how to improve freight efficiency. An example Shell gave was that a car with one passenger might achieve 30 mpg and be considered fuel efficient. But that same car carrying three people and only hitting 28 mpg is actually being far more efficient overall. In other words, the more goods you carry, the more efficient your fuel usage actually is. 

To improve freight efficiency, the Starship project has emphasized aerodynamics, lightweighting, reducing rolling resistance, and use of low-viscosity oils. When the Starship is finally unveiled next year, Shell plans to take the vehicle coast to coast to test it, from California to Florida on a drive designed to maximize efficiency and generally avoiding congestion when possible. The company says it isn’t aiming for specific number goals and is treating the Starship as “thought leadership on wheels.”


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Shell Debuts Fuel-Efficient Starship Concept Truck

Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)  /  March 6, 2018

Shell and Airflow Truck Company have debuted the full-size version of the company’s Starship Project truck – a concept Class 8 truck that maximizes fuel efficiency using a combination of currently available technologies.

The long-teased Starship Project concept truck was finally unveiled at  The Technology and Maintenance Council Annual Meeting in Atlanta. The project was first announced in 2015 and was designed by Bob Silwa’s AirFlow Truck Company, which produces hyper-efficient commercial trucks.

“We seek projects such as the Starship initiative to keep Shell at the leading edge of technology development and energy efficiency,” said Bob Mainwaring, technology manager for innovation, Shell Lubricants. “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.”

The body of the Starship Project tractor is a custom-made aerodynamic design made of carbon fiber. This includes the side skirts, hood, and front end. A custom, Department of Transportation-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 is powered by a 2017 Cummins X15 Efficiency 6-cylinder engine with 400 horsepower and 1,850 ft.-lbs. of torque that has been paired with a transmission that has been calibrated to run at very low speeds, down to 800 rpm.

The truck also makes use of Shell’s low viscosity synthetic lubricants, running on the Shell Rotella T6 Ultra 5W-30, which is an 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.

It will also 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 excellent high-temperature protection and heat transfer. Shell Rotella Diesel Exhaust Fluid, a high purity diesel exhaust fluid, will also be in the truck.


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From a real world stand point how would you ever do a pre or post trip inspection? Right now I’m fighting ice (sometimes 12” thick in places) sticking to my truck and trailer and it’s a pain. I couldn’t imagine how that truck could function anywhere other than warm climate and flat geography. 

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deja-vu all over again...25+ years later... PB 372

BC Mack



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group of engineers having synchronized wet dreams

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Shell’s Starship achieves 178.4 ton-miles per gallon

Truck News  /  June 5, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a six-day, 2,300-mile journey across the United States, Shell’s Starship lived up to its tagline of being ‘super fuel-efficient’ by putting up major numbers on its run.

The truck, developed collaboratively with Shell Lubricants and AirFlow Truck Company, attained a remarkable 178.4 ton-miles per gallon for freight efficiency – representing a 248% increase over the North American average that sits at 72 ton-miles per gallon today – during its trip from San Diego, Calif. to Jacksonville, Fla. in the last week of May. In total, the Starship burned 257 gallons of fuel.

The freight ton efficiency number is the one to focus on according to Shell executives, as it is a “more relevant statistic for judging the energy intensity associated with moving cargo from point A to point B since it combines the weight of cargo being moved with the amount of fuel consumed.”

By focusing on miles per gallon only, Robert Mainwairing technology manager for innovation, Shell Lubricants, said, you’re making drivers “go slow, and go light. And that encourages truckers to run empty. The better alternative is freight ton efficient, to assess the amount of fuel or energy required…so it drives a go slow, go heavy approach.”

And that’s exactly how the truck got from point A to point B – slow and heavy.

The truck, loaded with clean reef material, weighed in at 73,000 lbs, with an average speed of just over 50 mph, was decked out in a number of aerodynamic improvements and technologies to help achieve these numbers.

“Our goal with the Starship Initiative is to challenge how the trucking industry is defined and to further the conversation by working with AirFlow Truck Company and others,” said Mainwairing. “Through this road trip, we were able to test the Starship truck along with a number of technologies available today to provide insight into what trucking fleets and owner/operators could consider adopting to help reduce fuel use and emissions as they haul heavy loads.”

The cab itself is a bespoke aerodynamic design made of carbon fiber, to minimize wind resistance. The futuristic and streamlined design of the truck was amped up with cameras replacing the side mirrors.

It also sports active grill shutters, that open and close to maximize efficiency. Boat tails also played a major role in the fuel economy the truck achieved.

In addition to having low rolling resistance, single-wide based tires on the truck, it also has an automatic tire inflation system installed.

The roof of the truck is covered with 5,000 watt solar panels that charge the main 48 volt battery bank on the tractor. The battery powers the cab’s air conditioning and inverter for the 120 volt hotel loads.

According to Shell, if all the trucks in the U.S. reached the overall fuel economy and freight ton efficiency as the Starship, they would emit 229 million less tons of CO2 into the atmosphere per year, which would correspond to a 60% reduction in CO2 emission from U.S. truck fleets.

Though all of these technologies helped achieve remarkable number, none could be possible, said Shell, if it wasn’t for operational efficiencies controlled by the driver.

Driving the truck across the country was Robert Sliwa, the owner of AirFlow Truck Company.

“A poor driver can negate all the technology in the truck and get poor fuel mileage,” he said.

Overall, Sliwa reached an average of 8.94 mpg with the Starship on his run. The best fuel economy attained in his trip was 10.2 mpg. He said the truck was extremely quiet, most times he couldn’t even hear the engine on his trip, only the tires. His German shepherd, Kayla, joined him for the six-day trip that concluded on May 24.

“Driving the truck is an exercise in concentration,” he added. “The mental aspect of it is not to be underestimated. I was constantly aware of the grades the truck was coming up to and going down. I was doing my own predictive cruise. Really for a truck driver to maintain the best fuel economy he or she can, you have to get feedback from the gauge and anticipate what is coming up.”

The results of the truck were measured by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) as a third-party.

According to Mike Roeth, the executive director of NACFE, the council used two telematics devices and a data logger to verify the results.

Essentially, Roeth said, NACFE used a PeopleNet device and a LinkeDrive device to measure miles travelled, fuel consumed, and weight.

“The Shell team didn’t take the easy road to trying to achieve the best results they could with their first drive with the truck,” he said. “They knew they wanted to make the truck run, but they went a step further. They carried a much heavier load than many average truckers on the road carry, traveled a longer route in an uncontrolled environment with a variety of technologies not tested in these real-world conditions. For us, it was a rewarding opportunity to see the truck move from an idea on paper to traveling with the team on the road to help verify the run results.”

And while these results are all Shell could have hoped for, Carlos Maurer, Shell Lubricants Americas president, says this is just the tip of the iceberg for what is achievable tomorrow.

“For me, what is fantastic, is that this truck can be commercialized and on the road today,” he said. “All the products and technologies on the truck are ready to be rolled out. I believe the results today are just the baseline and I believe we will get better as time goes on and continue to make improvements.”

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The 'real journey' is just beginning for Shell's Starship truck

Fleet Owner  /  June 6, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, FL. The Shell Starship ended its 2,300-mile trip from San Diego, CA, to Jacksonville, FL, on Tuesday with a presentation highlighting the tractor-trailer’s efforts to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

But, as Shell’s Chris Guerrero pointed out, the real journey is only beginning.

The goal with the ship’s maiden voyage was to explore the Class 8 truck’s potential to increase freight-ton efficiency by transporting a 39,000-lb. payload of artificial reef material from California to Florida.

The long-term goal is to drive the fuel-economy conversation into the future.

“There’s more work left to be done,” said Guerrero, the global marketing director for Shell Lubricants.

“Four years ago, when we talked about the possibility of working with Bob Sliwa and AirFlow Truck Company, we recognized there was an opportunity for us to do more than test low-viscosity fluids in fuel-economy applications. That’s something we do regularly. We thought there was an opportunity to raise the level of discourse and dialogue around fuel economy, and what’s possible.

“Through perseverance and hard work – something every truck driver is well-acquainted with – we arrived here today, not in Jacksonville, but at a crossroads of where we move going forward.”

The trip

Sliwa, who partnered with Shell to design and build the “hyper-aerodynamic, super fuel-efficient” truck, also piloted the Starship across the country, battling real-world conditions truckers see daily, like traffic, bad weather and even a tire blowout, along with unique challenges.

The truck was bombarded by curious passersby throughout its journey, both on the highway and during stops along the way, including a state trooper who pulled the truck over as it entered Florida.

“We weren’t doing anything wrong, he was just so enthralled and intrigued by the truck,” Sliwa said.

“He told me during our stop autonomous vehicles are allowed in Florida now, and he didn’t know if it was autonomous, and I guess he wanted to see if the robot would stop when he lit him up.”

Sliwa said the trooper, who does training for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, eventually let them go, after taking plenty of pictures – to document the vehicle and, most likely, for himself.

He wasn’t the only one, either.

“All day long cars were coming by with cell phones, taking video (and) pictures,” Sliwa said. “The truckers were some of the worst. Going through California, a trucker was going 49 mph in the fast lane with his four-way flashers because he wanted us to pass him on the right so he could make a movie.

“The guy wanted to see the truck, but that raised my stress level through the roof.”

The technology

The truck took three years and 18,000 man-hours to conceive and construct, all with Shell Rotella financing, and Sliwa’s company not only built it, but he was charged with delivering it to Jacksonville intact.

Mission accomplished.

Even the extremely low-profile trailer skirts – only 3-4 inches off the ground – made the trek undamaged.

“This is a very expensive truck,” Sliwa quipped. “Shell paid a lot of money for me to build it – although way less than the SuperTruck folks.”

The “co-engineered” Starship features a custom-made cab crafted entirely of carbon fiber; active grill shutters that open for cooling, when necessary, and close to improve aerodynamics when not; boat tail, trailers skirts and automatic tractor fairings for streamlining; automated tire inflation system; and a 5,000-watt solar array covering the trailer roof that powers the cab’s air conditioner.

Shell intended to use Hyliion’s hybrid electric axle system, which provides a power boost uphill and captures braking energy downhill to recharge the tractor’s battery pack, but the project ran out of time.

“The technology’s not on the tractor yet,” Hyliion CEO Thomas Healy said. “It was one of those things where, as we were coming to the completion of this, timing-wise it didn’t work out. But in the next couple of months here, we’ll replace the rear axle of the tractor with a fully electric axle, and then mount our battery-box control systems on it, and make into a hybrid truck.”

The results

The Starship truck’s first-of-its-kind testing concluded May 24 and was third-party verified by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). The truck achieved an average fuel economy of 8.94 miles per gallon compared to the average U.S. fuel economy for transport trucks of 6.4 miles per gallon.

They averaged 10.2 mpg during one 100-mile stretch in Texas.

Those results were with a gross vehicle weight of nearly 73,000 lbs., which is 28% heavier than average, according to joint statistics compiled by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But the most important number, said Bob Mainwaring, Shell Lubricants’ technology manager for innovation, is 178.4, which is the ton-miles per gallon for freight-ton efficiency, a more relevant measurement of energy intensity that combines a cargo’s weight with the amount of fuel consumed.

The North American average for trucks is 72 ton-miles per gallon, according to a NACFE report.

“Our goal with the Starship Initiative is to challenge how the trucking industry is defined,” Mainwaring said. “Through this road trip, we were able to test the Starship truck along with a number of technologies available today to provide insight into what trucking fleets and owner/operators could consider adopting to help reduce fuel use and emissions as they haul heavy loads.

“This includes optimized aerodynamics, drivetrain and operational efficiencies, and low viscosity lubricants.”

With Starship technology on all the 2 million trucks in the U.S., Shell extrapolates an estimated 229 million less tons of CO2 entering the atmosphere per year – a 60% reduction in emissions.

“These and other learnings are not the final results,” Mainwaring said. “They are simply the start of our ongoing learning.”

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