New patent means HGVs can be less of a drag

A new system that adjusts HGV cab roofs to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency has been developed by a University of Huddersfield team.

The University of Huddersfield is leading the way in a ground-breaking piece of technology that will improve fuel efficiency for HGVs.

An automated HGV cab roof deflector system (CRD) has been developed and patented by the University by a team led by Professor Rakesh Mishra, Professor of Fluid Dynamics in the Department of Engineering and Technology.

Streamlining the shape of HGV’s cab and its trailer has been shown to improve fuel efficiency, due to an improved airflow. However, the trailers pulled by HGVs can be of different heights to the cabs of the HGVs, leading to greater ‘drag’ and inefficiencies.

Study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Huddersfield

The newly developed system comprises of a low-cost hardware and software control system that changes the position of the CRD on the cab, making a better aerodynamic shape.

“I talked to one or two companies to discuss the problem, and found that the cab deflector is mostly fixed to a certain height and does not take into account the wind speed,” says Professor Mishra. “So if the trailer is very high, and cab is low, it is not very aerodynamic – if you have small deflector, it is not going to help. Also, the optimum height of the deflector will be different for different wind speeds for the same tractor-trailer combination.

“We thought it would be a good idea to think of something, so I thought of this automated cab roof deflector system where the same cab roof can electronically go up or down. It can be automatically adjusted with trailer height and wind speed in such a manner that it gives the best fuel efficiency.”

The cab roof deflector system up and downHow the CRD system looks when up and down

Less drag means environmental benefits

Studies have shown that changing the aerodynamics in this way could lead to an improvement in fuel efficiency of 3% to 5%. The transport industry is estimated to be responsible for around a quarter of all emissions into the atmosphere in the UK, with 23% of those from HGVs, so the benefits of better aerodynamics would be welcomed.

Matching the shape of the cab and the trailer would also bring improvements for electric vehicles.

“The charging interval is one of the biggest problems,” adds Professor Mishra. “But if the power needed can reduced then the amount of charge left and therefore time between charging intervals can be extended.”

The work of Professor Mishra and his team has been backed by funding from the University and Yorkshire Forward. Help from the University’s R & D department has led to discussions with external companies with a view to putting the system onto the market now that the patent has been granted.

Professor Mishra adds, “I see the University of Huddersfield as an R&D centre for SMEs that don’t have R&D themselves. It’s something we have been working towards and that I am pushing forwards.”

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