Shell Rotella’s Starship Truck to debut early 2018

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – If Captain James T. Kirk and his sidekick Spock were to get behind the wheel of a big rig, surely Shell Rotella’s Starship Truck would be an obvious choice.

Providing a sneak peek into the details of its Starship Truck initiative, Shell Rotella plans to unveil its next generation vehicle early 2018 with a coast-to-coast tour, showcasing what the company says will be a more fuel efficient option for long haul transportation in a world where energy demand will continue to rise.

Bob Mainwaring, technology manager of innovation for Shell Lubricants, said the overall goal of the Starship Truck is to produce a more energy efficient vehicle that can minimize the amount of energy needed to move goods.

With transport trucks currently getting anywhere between six and 6.5 mpg fuel efficiency, the Starship initiative aims to design a truck that can at least double that mark by improving roll resistance, aerodynamics, and engine efficiency.

When measuring energy efficiency, Mainwaring said people must get away from their tendency to simply look at miles per gallon as the gauge of success.

“Miles per gallon is the metric, but I don’t think it’s the best metric,” explained Mainwaring, saying the focus should rather be on freight-ton efficiency, which measures how much fuel is used to move a certain amount of cargo.

For example, one truck moving one ton of freight at 10 mpg would equate to 10 ton mpg, while one truck moving 20 tons of freight at 7mpg would equal 140 ton mpg, a more efficient freight-ton efficiency, Mainwaring said.

To enhance the overall efficiency of a truck, Mainwaring divides the multitude of options into two categories – those that reduce energy demand, such as lightweight components, auto tire inflation systems, exhaust aftertreatment, and aerodynamics, and others that enhance the efficiency of energy delivery, like the engine, transmission, regeneration, and solar energy capabilities.

Facing what he said were three hard truths the world is facing moving toward 2050 – increased energy use, lack of resources, and energy security – Mainwaring said it is imperative that transportation, which makes up 35% of the world’s energy use, become more efficient.

To emphasis this need, Mainwaring underscored that by 2050 the world’s population is expected to increase to nine billion, people in cities would reach 75%, and energy demand would increase by 200%, all of which could have a significant impact on the environment.

“Because transport is the largest segment, you have to pay close attention to it if you’re going to reduce CO2 emissions,” Mainwaring said.

Chris Guerrero, global heavy duty engine oil brand manager, Shell Lubricants, said the Starship Truck initiative was the perfect example of “the beauty of the American can-do spirit,” while Mainwaring added that it is imperative that we not put off until tomorrow what we can do today.

Shell Rotella Starship Truck model.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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