Portland, OR –
Oregon Gov. Theodore Kulongoski clicked the mouse on the master computer April
14 to start Freightliner’s new full-scale truck wind tunnel. The former
truck-driver-turned-politician remarked on the progress made in trucks since he
spent time driving in his youth.
Freightliner built the wind tunnel to learn more about
aerodynamics and how airflow improvements can lead to other benefits, said
Freightliner’s group senior vice president of engineering and technology,
Michael Von Mayenburg.
“A 3 percent drop in coefficient of drag can improve fuel
economy 1 percent,” he told the assembled group of dignitaries and trucking
“Freightliner’s goal is to lower Cd 15 percent in our next
generation of trucks, resulting in a 5 percent fuel mileage improvement. If we
can influence the design of 50,000 trucks a year, total savings for the
industry could be 70 million gallons annually,” Von Mayenburg said. “With our
own wind tunnel, we can now also afford to study how weather affects buildup on
mirrors and wipers and splash and spray. We will examine component cooling and
wind noise, among other projects.”
Portland Mayor Vera Katz was a driving force behind getting
the 12,000-square-foot facility approved and built. Freightliner employs 3,100
people at its many facilities in Portland.
“In Oregon, we say (quoting Kermit the Frog) ‘It’s not easy
being green,’” she said. “The efforts put forth in this facility will contribute
to improving fuel economy and also reducing pollution. This is a facility
Portland can take pride in.”
A team from Freightliner, Portland State University, the
Mercedes-Benz Trucks Analysis Team and the NASA Ames Research Center jointly
developed the new wind tunnel. Its 10 blowers are each powered by a 250 hp
motor, adapted from commercial building HVAC units. When at full power, the
combined 2,500 hp draws one megawatt of current and moves 2.5 million cubic
feet of air per minute to achieve sustained airspeeds of 65 mph.
U.S. Rep. David Wu, whose district includes Portland,
affirmed his concerns for trucking.
“I will do everything to fight for a properly funded highway
bill,” the Oregon Democrat told the audience, “not only to have good roads for
our trucks and families to drive on, but also to provide innovations to make
those highways safer.”
Freightliner expects to operate its wind tunnel eight to 10
hours per day, which would be prohibitively expensive in commercially available
wind tunnels that charge $30,000 to $100,000 per day.
--by Paul Abelson, senior technical editor
Paul Abelson can be reached at email@example.com.