An aerodynamic shaped composite truck trailer has been developed that weighs 1200 kg less than one made from steel.
EPL Composite Solutions developed a new material for the trailer within the EU funded research project CleanMould.
The new composite material contains double the volume of glass fibres compared to common composites, using a low viscosity thermoplastic resin from Cyclics Corporation in Germany. Glass fibre mats impregnated with resin powder are placed into vacuum bag on a mould and heated to 200C where the powdered resin melts.
Five percent of fuel can be saved through the weight reduction, but even more important is its improved shape. This allows the designers to change its aerodynamic properties and the design has an inherent drag reduction of 13 percent that can be further improved to 20 percent with optimisation of the design. At high speeds, such as motorway cruising, this aerodynamic drag is the dominant factor in determining heavy goods vehicle fuel consumption. With the new shape another 10 percent of fuel can be saved.
The prototypes have been tested thoroughly on a series of demanding test tracks at the Motor Research Industry Association (MIRA) in Warwickshire, the biggest test ground in the UK. They included a braking test, speed bumps and cobblestone roads.
Deflections and accelerations through the trailer have been measured to see which parts in the trailer are under high stress or strain. The results so far are very promising and the engineers envisage already the next steps: The composites are ready to roll out into the industry now, says Matthew Turner, CleanMould project coordinator and Composite Engineer at EPL.
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