A truck is generally about as streamlined as a block of flats and around 20 percent of its energy is lost to wind resistance at the front of the vehicle – thereby increasing fuel consumption.
But researchers at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology have cottoned onto a novel way to tackle turbulence: fighting wind with wind.
They’ve created wind-generating devices that mount to the front corners of a truck to reduce wind resistance.
The idea was inspired by the winglets fitted to the tips of aircraft wings that generate vortices to reduce the drag created when a plane is taking off, thus increasing lift.
When cross winds hits a truck at an angle it similarly creates a wake of chaotic vortices in the air. Instead of winglets the truck is fitted with plasma actuators, devices that apply a high voltage between two electrodes. Surrounding air molecules become ionized and accelerate through the electric field – which results in wind.
This electric wind reduces turbulence by forcing the airstream to more closely follow the truck’s surface to reduce drag. KTH researchers believe this could improve fuel consumption by five percent – a significant figure when you consider that trucks consume around one million barrels of oil each day in the US, China and Europe alone.