Industry News

Starship 2.0 enterprise yields phenomenal fuel figures

A leading global fuel company has revealed that its high-efficiency Starship 2.0 semi-trailer demonstrator in the USA has garnered big gains in fuel economy and freight-tonne efficiency over its 2018 predecessor, Starship 1.0.

In a world where battery electric (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technologies seem to be getting all the airplay, Shell is pushing back in an effort to demonstrate the potential for dramatic reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions while still using good ol’ diesel fuel.

Retracing the transcontinental voyage that Starship 1.0 took in 2018 from San Diego, California to Jacksonville, Florida, Starship 2.0 reportedly achieved 10.8mpg US (4.6km/litre) – a nearly 21per cent gain in fuel economy compared with Starship 1.0’s 8.94mpg US (3.8km/litre).

According to Shell, the average fuel consumption for a Class 8 North American tractor-trailer (semi-trailer) on linehaul is 6.4mpg US (2.7km/litre), which is roughly 40 per cent higher than Starship 2.0.

A regional trip, which followed the long haul journey, was, according to Shell, even more impressive with nearly double the mpg and triple the freight-ton efficiency of the US average. Both trips were monitored and verified by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, Shell claimed.

In addition to impressive fuel economy gains, the company reported that Starship 2.0 can drop CO2 emissions in a big way.

“One of the most important metrics achieved by Shell Starship 2.0 is the potential reduction in CO2 emissions for the fleet industry,” the company said in a statement.

“If every truck in North America was as efficient as the Shell Starship 2.0, this could mean a potential reduction in CO2 emissions for North America of 275 million tons annually.

“Shell freight-ton efficiency, the rating that considers the energy or fuel required to move cargo based on weight, shot up for Starship 2.0 to 254 tonne-mpg compared to 178 tonne-mpg for Starship 1.0. Average freight-ton efficiency for North American trucks is 72 ton-mpg, a 71 per cent decline from Starship 2.0,” Shell stated.

The company added that Starship 2.0’s freight-ton performance gains were even more impressive given it hauled 18 per cent more payload than Starship 1.0.

Both trucks transported artificial reefs to be used off Jacksonville’s Atlantic coast. Starship 2.0’s load came in at 47,100 pounds (21.3 tonnes) while Starship 1.0’s reef material weighed in at 39,900 pounds (18.1 tonnes).

Though the two trucks look similar externally, Starship 2.0 came with some big changes including a 2020 Cummins X15 400 EX Efficiency Series engine paired with a 12-speed Eaton Endurant automated manual transmission (AMT).

“In essence, the only thing that has been retained from the original truck is the carbon fibre cab design because the aerodynamics of the cab could not be improved upon,” said Shell’s On-Highway Global Marketing Manager, Jeff Priborksy.

Meanwhile, Starship 2.0 Project Manager, Ryan Manthiri, explained that the truck’s stellar performance gains came as a result of a collaborative effort among various engineers and manufacturers, some of whom were present with Manthiri at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, California in early September.

At the Expo, Manthiri admitted to being surprised by the magnitude of improvement in Starship 2.0 over the 2,340-mile (3,766km) trip compared with its predecessor.

“There were a lot of things we learned from the first truck,” he said. “However, the increase that we saw – 254 tonne-miles – I think that was a bit of a surprise in terms of just how big the efficiency improvement was.”

Shell’s Vice President of Global Lubricants and Fuels Technology, Selda Gunsel, said results with Starship 2.0 were exciting.

“I think we expected improvements because we used the latest version of the energy efficient Cummins engine and the Eaton transmission,” said Gunsel. “We also used our latest low-viscosity lubricants and we expected improvements through the new energy efficient tyres and other improvements with aerodynamics.”

Shell Starship 2.0 uses Shell Rotella T6 Ultra 5W-30 Full Synthetic engine oil which features a high temperature high shear (HTHS) viscosity formulation for reduced fuel consumption.

“When you’re running an experiment under real world conditions there are so many variables, so it’s really hard to predict what the result will be,” continued Gunsel.

“But I have to admit that we were really excited; I think the results turned out better than we expected.”

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