In this month's cover story, SeniorWriter Joe Ogando examines a classic engineering trade-off at Volvo: To meet new EPA regulations for reduced emissions, the VN heavy truck team adopted diesel engines equipped with exhaust gas recirculation, which in turn reduced truck fuel economy. To offset the impact, the engineering team focused its efforts in part on improving the vehicle's aerodynamics. Read about how software tools helped Volvo figure out what changes gave them the biggest bang for their buck on page 60.
Improving aerodynamics has been a recurring theme in Design News recently, involving a number of different products from heavy trucks to boats to scooters (you can access these articles on our website at www.designnews.com, using the keyword search bar).
For example, in our BMOC column "Drag Queen," (DN 08.04.03), we profiled Rose McCallen, an expert in computational fluid dynamics at Lawrence Livermore Labs. She's the driving force behind the DOE's goal to improve the aerodynamics of heavy trucks. Her research has shown that making relatively simple changes to a truck's design, such as mounting flaps on the back end of a trailer, can work out to double-digit percentage reductions in drag.
We also profiled Professor Thomas Bewley (DN 08.18.03), Director of the Flow Control Lab at the University of California at San Diego. A specialist in control theory and fluid mechanics, he is developing new strategies for controlling unsteady flow systems. Recently, he's teamed up with Robert Skelton, a researcher at the same institute who is studying compliant fabrics that could be used to reduce the drag of boats. The idea for the fabric came from studying dolphin skin.
Finally, we chronicled the efforts of the engineering team at Vectrix Corp. which is developing a long-range electric scooter (DN 08.18.03). Aerodynamic styling played a role in their efforts to engineer an electric vehicle that will compete against gas-powered vehicles. The scooter's 110-km range stands to make it a worthy competitor.
I for one applaud any effort to reduce aerodynamic drag, especially when it comes to automobiles. Average fuel economy of our nation's fleet of cars and trucks (20.4 mpg) sunk to its lowest level in two decades in 2002, largely in part because the average vehicle today is more than 20% heavier than in the 1980s. Obviously we haven't been able to break off our love affair with big cars, but hopefully we can reduce its drag on gasoline consumption.