If you think your average annual gas bill is expensive, imagine how much the shipping industry spends to ship all forms of goods around the globe with its fleets of massive trucks. The Mercedes-Benz Aerodynamic Truck and Trailer aims to save a little of that fuel, money and pollution.

Mercedes optimizes air flow on the Aerodynamic Trailer using a series of measures. An air deflector on the trailer's bulkhead reduces the distance between it and the tractor cab. Meanwhile, curved side panels and a paneled underbody direct air flow toward the rear, where a tapered "boat tail" and rear diffuser take over. Mercedes says the trailer modifications reduce drag by 18 percent. It estimates that the trailer can save 2,000 liters (528 gallons) of fuel each year, cutting costs by €3,000 (about US$3,850 as of publishing) and CO2 emissions by 5 tons (4.5 tonnes).

The aerodynamic changes do not impede the trailer's hauling capabilities. It is a standard 13.6-meter (44.6-foot) trailer. Mercedes says that it meets the "day-to-day requirements of haulage operations, from ground clearance through approach/departure angle to user-friendly operation of the rear portal."

The Aerodynamics Trailer is designed to fit with the Actros with StreamSpace Cab semi tractor, which Mercedes calls the most efficient heavy truck on the road. That cab, which is already available, is aerodynamically optimized and can be fitted with an aftermarket streamlining kit that adds a roof air deflector, side deflectors and side paneling.

Mercedes has also designed a solo truck called the Aerodynamic Truck. The design of the truck is similar to the Aerodynamic Trailer, using a contoured body, paneled underbody, boat tail and a rear diffuser. It also has a roof spoiler. The truck reportedly increases aerodynamic performance by about 12 percent over a conventional design, enabling an estimated fuel savings of around 350 liters (92 gallons), €500 (app. $640) and one ton (0.9 tonnes) of CO2 per year.

The Aerodynamics Truck and Trailer are still in the prototype stages, and Mercedes plans to do more testing after showing them at this week's 2012 International Commercial Vehicles Show. Mercedes says that if demand is appropriate, the trailer and truck can be put into series production swiftly. Mercedes is relying on European Union lawmakers to approve legislation increasing the maximum allowed length of the trailer by 500 mm (1.6 feet). This would allow for the extra length added by the boat tail. Mercedes believes such legislation will pass by next spring.

Daimler/Mercedes isn't the only truck manufacturer working on a more efficient tractor trailer. Other examples include the wildly styled Innotruck and the terrain prediction system.

Source: Daimler