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The Starship has landed: Shell, AirFlow Truck Co. debut energy-efficient Class 8 concept truck

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Jason Morgan is the editor of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 14 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

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Shell and AirFlow Truck Co. have designed and built a hyper-fuel-efficient Class 8 concept truck capable of reducing the energy usage associated with the transportation of goods. This next-generation concept truck, called the Starship Project, uses technologies that are currently available today to minimize the amount of energy it takes to transport a load of cargo from one point to another. With new fuel economy regulations on the horizon and the need for continuing advances in fuel economy and emissions reductions, Shell Lubricants recognizes that a holistic approach to making fuel economy gains is important, the company explained. This includes advances in engine and drive train technology, the use of low viscosity synthetic lubricants, aerodynamic designs, efficient driving methods and beyond.

The body of the Starship Project tractor is a bespoke aerodynamic design made of carbon fiber. This includes the side skirts, hood, and front end. A custom, Department of Transportation (DOT)-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. AirFlow Truck Co., which helped bring the truck to life, has built two previous aerodynamic and fuel-efficient Class 8 tractor trailers, the first in 1983 and the most recent in 2012. The most recent rig, dubbed the Bullet Truck, ran coast-to-coast hauling freight at 65,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight and averaged a record 13.4 MPG.

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The Starship Project truck is powered by a 2017 Cummins X15 Efficiency six-cylinder engine with 400 HP and 1850 ft./lbs. of torque. The standard engine has been calibrated with the transmission to run at very low speeds and down to 800 RPM.

Shell provided technical consultation on engine and drivetrain components, as well as recommendations for lubricant needs for use in the Starship Project truck. The engine will run on Shell Rotella T6 Ultra 5W-30, which is a low viscosity 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, the company explained. Shell will be able to gain valuable information for creating lower viscosity engine oils without sacrificing performance.

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The truck will 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.

Starship project testing

The Starship Project will undertake a cross-country run in May that will begin in California and end in Florida carrying a real load of cargo: clean reef material destined for a new reef installation off the coast of Florida later this summer. AirFlow and Shell will seek to reduce the energy usage associated with the transportation of goods through improved fuel-economy for a Class 8 truck and the measurement of freight ton efficiency.

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