When it comes to aerodynamics, certain facts are things we instinctively know. For example, there will be an improvement in air flow and a corresponding reduction in fuel costs and carbon footprint if you fit a roof taper or side skirts. We know that trailers with moulded corners are better than those with square.
We also know that there are greater savings to be had by combining different bits of aerodynamic kit but we don’t always know exactly what these are or what the optimum combination is. And that’s where CFD – Computational Fluid Dynamics – comes into its own.
The most accurate form of testing is to use the real thing – or as close to it as you can get. We can do this using the Catesby tunnel or a proving ground but even these have their limitations.
1. Time is of the essence
Instead of dealing with the logistics and cost associated with the above methods, using CFD requires just a CAD model. It does need to be as accurate as possible which is why our 3D CAD drawings are excellent when used for CFD. Using CFD to test aerodynamics means it is easy to adjust, tweak and generally ‘play around’ with designs and additional kit until you achieve the result you are looking for.
Take side skirts as an example. We can create many variations just with this one piece of kit. We could cover the wheels, fully or in part; leave them uncovered or create something which fills the holes in them to streamline the airflow. Every permutation can be tested within a matter of days.
It’s therefore a great time saver – this many adjustments would simply not be possible if using an actual vehicle.
2. Environmentally efficient
Aside from the focus on carbon footprint – that’s one of the main reasons we’re all here working hard to find leading aerodynamic solutions – this approach means resources go into computer modelling, not materials. We don’t need to continually create prototype moulds and kit which saves money, time and materials which would only go to waste after the testing was complete.
Using CFD allows us to test for operations anywhere in the world without travelling. Due to the impact of varying headwinds in different countries, aerodynamics kit needs to be bespoke to the country of operation and CFD allows us to tweak this factor when testing without the expense and inevitable carbon footprint of visiting the countries to carry out tests.
The lack of manufacturing shortens the development time for businesses which also saves money.
3. Future proofing
Legislation already exists banning high level trailers in Europe but here in the UK, we use them. Using CFD, we can easily compare the results of aerodynamic kit on different trailer heights, which helps us to understand the impact of any change to this legislation in the future in the UK.
The timescales for achieving carbon footprint targets are incredibly challenging. As an industry, hauliers need to keep innovating, continually revisit their fleet and make all the improvements they can. Aerodynamics savings can sometimes appear small, with single percentage figures but when the pressure is on, every little helps.
Our experience and innovative approach to product development and manufacturing mean we are very well placed to help our clients achieve the results they need.