New Aerodynamic Big Rig Design Based On NASA Flight Research

Jim McCormack

Since the late 70’s and early 80’s NASA Dryden researchers have sought ways to redesign big rig trucks in order to reduce drag.  This was accomplished through by utilizing the techniques of flight research.  The result was that truck manufacturers began to take recommendations to heart, which led to designs that included rounded edges.  This single modification was found to reduce drag by 40%, but this was only the beginning.  Today’s “Super Trucks” are said to be the latest effort that was spawned by NASA researchers.


When looking at AirFlow’s new design, the big rig appears to be something straight out of a science fiction movie.  With the incorporation of new technology combined with cutting-edge engineering, the sleek new exterior and enhancements result in lower emissions while reducing fuel use.  This effort was a direct result of legislative mandates due to go into effect in 2014 that require all trucks to be equipped with emission control systems and fuel economy packages.


AirFlow’s first efforts are in the form of a kit that fastens directly over an existing big rig.  The kit comes with a new Smart Truck Under Tray System.  This finely-tuned wind deflector is expected to save up to 1.5 billion gallon of diesel fuel and lower toxic carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 16.4 million tons in the near future.  For those that can’t afford the new or can’t wait to try this out, the streamlined body kit is designed with modifications that can double fuel efficiency.




For anyone that has seen pictures of the high speed “bullet train” made famous in Japan, the new streamlined look of these rigs is an almost direct replica.  Among changes in the sleek look of the cab and trailer is also the repositioning of the radiator grill.  It can now be found on the bottom of the truck so that incoming air flow has less resistance leaving a nose similar to an airplane.

It’s more than likely that existing fleets will be the first to incorporate the design kits on a large scale so don’t be surprised if, while driving down the road, you see one of these “Super Trucks” with a Walmart logo on the side.  For those that can wait, AirFlow is currently working on a model made from scratch they aptly named “Future Truck.”  It is anticipated this new design will reduce drag by over 63% compared to conventional streamlined models.

Fortunately, designers didn’t forget the backend either.  The importance of the rear of the trailer came to light during testing when it was found that the sheer size as well as its flatness created a drag that was almost equal to the traditional frontend as well as increased turbulence.  In response, designers created a type of “aero-wedge” as well as rounded corners and created flaps that run along the sides, which significantly reduced airflow.

The future is closer than we think and with new legislative mandates that seem almost impossible to meet, it’s a good thing someone has been tinkering with big rig truck designs.