AirFlow Truck Company has its eye set on the future, with the expectation of bringing the decades-old trade of trucking and overland transport into the 21st century. Based out of Newington, Connecticut, the company has been in the business of applying aerodynamic concepts to 18-wheelers for the better part of thirty years, making great breakthroughs over the past five years.
In 1983, Sliwa completed his first aerodynamic tractor-trailer prototype. Where other 18-wheelers made 4-6 mpg, Sliwa’s was capable of making up to 10.5 mpg. Photos: AirFlowTruck.com
Founder Robert Sliwa, a former trucker himself, learned early on how important airflow was to a vehicle, especially when it applied to drag racing. Sliwa’s golden years found him driving a suped-up ’68 Chevelle SS down dragstrips all over the Northeast, making quarter-mile times averaging at around 11 seconds.
His passion for driving was what got him into trucking. He was a regional trucker for a number of years. Then, in 1981, Sliwa became his own boss, working as an owner-operator in his Ryder cabover tractor. Long hauls were expensive, however, and Sliwa began looking for ways to make a dent in the low mpgs seen in ordinary big rigs.
Over a couple of years, the driver-cum-engineer tried and tested several methods for improving fuel efficiency on his own truck. He was eventually able to more than double its output, from 4.4 mpg to 10.5 mpg, and took his ideas around the country as a consultant, all the while gaining valuable sponsorships from the likes of Flex-a-Lite Consolidated, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and Cummins Diesel Engines.
Fast forward to 2010s, and Sliwa’s ideas and innovations are gaining serious ground. In 2012, the inventor’s “BulletTruck” made a cross-country journey from Connecticut to California, and managed to achieve an average mpg of 13.4 hauling a full load–compare that to the 4-6mpg average found in other, ordinary trucks, and it’s fair to say that Sliwa’s concepts might be worth exploring.
The BulletTruck’s success has been attributed to a couple of factors. First, it featured smooth contours and little to no hard edges on the truck proper, as well as panels that stretched the length of the trailer to prevent air from creating drag on the underside. His design probably helped the truck during its most trying leg of the trip–through Wyoming and Utah–where Sliwa was battling headwinds and crosswinds in excess of 40mph.
Second, high-tech applications, such as the hybrid air conditioning and power steering unit, were responsible for decreasing a great amount of load on the engine during the 3,000+ mile journey, which he completed while going the normal 55mph.
These days, Sliwa is busy with work on his 2015 concept vehicle, which promises to represent the next step in AirFlow Truck’s evolution and innovation. A major difference between this model and the BulletTruck has to do with the ground effects, which cover even more of the trailer, shielding the rear wheels and tires from wind.
The front end looks like a cross between a jumbo jet and a bullet train. Doesn’t it?
There’s also the yet even sharper front section of the tractor, which meshes the windshield into the aerodynamic curvature in a way resembling a jumbo jet. All the air gaps and ground effects are reportedly dynamic, possibly to better channel air as it comes into contact with the tractor and trailer. Sliwa’s waiting for adequate funding before he moves ahead with further development, but it seems clear that his ideas and prototypes are viable and visionary; he shouldn’t have much trouble obtaining the necessary help, especially since pushes are being made from both the private and public sector.
For more information on AirFlow Truck Company and their exciting work, check out their website.