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Superefficient trucks and planes

While autos use 60% of U.S. transportation’s oil—by far the biggest leverage point in the transportation sector’s energy use, opportunities lie in the smarter design and use for the other vehicles we rely on.

Applying vehicle fitness to heavy trucks, airplanes, and other vehicles could save $1 trillion in net present value. (Walmart has saved 60% of its trucks’ fuel in the past five years, with more to go.)

New military leadership in fuel efficiency will greatly accelerate civilian innovation too. Their keen new interest in the fitness and fuel economy of its land, sea and air platforms can accelerate the national journey beyond oil, and help them successfully secure our nation.

Efficiency gain of low rolling resistance tires vs. baseline

Losses due to rolling resistance are higher for heavier vehicles than for autos. In a Class 8 tractor trailer at 65 mph, 13% of fuel is lost to rolling resistance. Wide base single tires save about half of that today, more with next-generation tires.


Efficiency potential for heavy truck aerodynamic improvements

Short sea shipping could save heavy trucks’ fuel by shifting ton-miles onto ships and waterborne highways that travel up and down our coasts and interior waterways. This would reverse durable trends toward truck freight.

Integrating four major aerodynamic features can save about 10% of heavy trucks’ fuel: a nearly sealed tractor-trailer gap, full skirting of the tractor and trailer, a rear drag reducing device, and optimized cab shape with minimal aerodynamic discontinuities.


Engine idling vs other methods

Line haul trucks waste a great deal of fuel idling their engines overnight to power small “hotel loads” that cool, heat, and power personal electronics within truck cabs. Auxiliary power units reduce this use by two-thirds; electrified parking spaces eliminate it.


Heavy truck efficiency supply curve

Better design can save up to 45% of U.S. heavy truck fuel, or 1.7 Mbbl/d in 2050, at a weighted-average cost equivalent to $1.00-per-gallon diesel fuel.


Mass reduction potential for a class-8 heavy truck

As with light duty vehicles, lightweighting trucks reduces tractive load. Over 2,800 lb of weight reduction potential is available, lowering the tare weight so more cargo can be carried by fewer trucks.


Auxiliary load reduction efficiency potential and cost

Parasitic loads are generated by accessories that run the engine or provide power to vehicle systems like cooling fans, alternator, actuators, power steering, air brake compressors, and liquid pumps. Serving these loads more efficiently can reduce heavy trucks’ total fuel use by 3–7% at minimal cost.

Reinventing Fire airplane efficiency improvements

Considering historical technology adoption in aviation and entry into service dates for advanced airplanes, the majority of today’s planes could be replaced with more efficient versions by 2050.

Our airplane efficiency gain is derived from studies of new airplane designs within each of the major airplane size classes: narrowbody, widebody, and regional. Efficiency gains for each future airplane design are relative to existing 2010 designs.


Fuel efficiency gains since the modern jet age

Decades of improvements in airplane efficiency, logistics, and load factor slashed the fuel burned per seat by 82% during 1958–2010. Compared to early airliners like the Comet 4, engine fuel consumption has dropped by nearly 50%.


Seat miles demand outlook with Reinventing Fire technology portfolio

Considering historical technology adoption in aviation and entry into service dates for advanced airplanes, the majority of today’s planes could be replaced with more efficient versions by 2050.

Landmark emissions standards highlight efficiency potential in the domestic freight sector

New standards require truck manufacturers to reduce fuel consumption and emissions of new tractor-trailers 5% each year between 2014 and 2018. To meet this requirement, truck manufacturers will use several currently available technologies including low-cost aerodynamic features, super-efficient wide-base single tires that replace traditional dual tire configurations, and efficient shifting mechanisms like automated manual transmissions.

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