A BMI Corp. SmartTruck technology that could save 1.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel and $5 billion in fuel costs per year has hit the road in record time in part because of simulations performed on the nation's most powerful supercomputer at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
While South Carolina-based BMI Corp. has just won an industry award from Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, the real winners could be trucking companies and the environment. With installation of BMI's SmartTruck UnderTray System to improve the aerodynamics of 18-wheeler (Class 8) long-haul trucks, the typical big rig can achieve fuel savings of between 7 and 12 percent, easily meeting the new California Air Resources Board mandate that calls for a minimum mileage improvement of 5 percent.
Those results, which earned BMI one of the publication's top 20 products of the year awards, were made possible because of simulation work performed on ORNL's Jaguar supercomputer.
"We were able to run simulations based on the most complex tractor and trailer models instead of simplified models, and we were able to run them faster," said Mike Henderson, chief executive officer and founder of BMI, an engineering services firm based in Greenville, S.C.
The work on Jaguar shortened the computing turnaround time for BMI's complex models from days to a few hours and eliminated the need for costly and time-consuming physical prototypes. In all, running simulations on Jaguar allowed BMI to go from concept to a design that could be turned over to a manufacturer in 18 months instead of the 3½ years they had anticipated, according to Henderson, who noted, however, that more work remains.
"Our first goal was to design add-on parts for existing trucks and trailers to make them more aerodynamic," Henderson said. "By reducing drag we boost fuel efficiency and cut the amount of carbon that's being dumped into the environment."
In time, BMI plans to design trucks that are far more aerodynamic from the ground up.
"We hope to soon turn our attention to creating a brand-new highly aerodynamic vehicle with optimum fuel efficiency," Henderson said.
Until then, Henderson noted that if all of the nation's 1.3 million Class 8 trucks were configured with just the minimum UnderTray package, the average fuel economy of 6 miles per gallon could increase to about 6.5 mpg or more, which is significant given the fact 18-wheelers collectively travel some 130 billion miles per year. And from an emissions standpoint, equipped with the aerodynamics package, those trucks would reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 32.7 billion pounds (16.4 million tons).
"The Department of Energy's supercomputers provide an enormous competitive advantage for the United States," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "This is a great example of how investments in innovation can help lead the way to new jobs, new ways of cutting our carbon emissions and new opportunities for America to succeed in the global marketplace."
BMI's work with ORNL was made possible through the laboratory's Industrial High-Performance Computing Partnerships Program. Through this effort, BMI was able to access Jaguar, which boasts nearly 225,000 processing cores with a theoretical peak computational capability of 2.3 petaflops (2.3 quadrillion floating operations per second).
The UnderTray's aerodynamic components are manufactured in Georgia by Cellofoam while various metal brackets, bolts and other hardware that attach the parts to the trailer are made by a number of companies in South Carolina. Several fleets, including Con-way Truckload and Frito-Lay, are already using the parts. The kit can be installed in the field by fleet owners and operators.
The award was presented Tuesday at the American Trucking Association's 2011 Technology & Maintenance Council's annual truck show in Tampa, Fla. Images and more information about the SmartTruck technology can be accessed here: www.SmartTruckBrands.com. A DOE press release about BMI SmartTruck is available at http://www.energy.gov/news/10056.htm.