AU researcher works to reduce tractor-trailer fuel consumption

AUBURN – An Auburn University graduate student’s research soon could help reduce the fuel consumption of tractor-trailers across the nation’s highways.

Mechanical engineering graduate student Wei Huang is working with Intermap Technologies, a digital map company in Denver, and is using its 3D road geometry system to design a predictive cruise controller and an automatic gear shifting algorithm. These will work together in an optimal control system to calculate the ideal vehicle speed for best fuel economy for varying grades of hills.

“Early simulation results have shown that the truck fuel consumption can be reduced up to three percent without significantly increasing traveling time, while the optimal control system is compared with a conventional cruise control system,” said Huang, who works in the laboratory of David Bevly, an AU assistant professor in mechanical engineering.

Using Global Positioning System technology to estimate the truck position, the 3D road geometry system by Intermap is used to gain the road slope information ahead.

“Our project is unique in two ways,” says Huang. “The designed system is tested with a real commercial 3D road geometry first. Then the influence of the road geometry and sensor accuracy on fuel economy is investigated.

“The 3D road geometry and GPS-based control system is designed to reduce the heavy trucks’ fuel consumption. The system consists of vehicle state estimators, the road geometry and an optimal control system.”

In 2004, heavy trucks used up 15-20 percent of the country’s highway fuel, with a significant amount of the fuel use being attributed to road slopes. Intermap noticed this problem and decided to sponsor Bevly’s research team as they worked to improve it.

(Contributed by Sara Borchik.)

Contact: Sara Borchik, 334/844-9159 (borchse@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, 334/844-9999 (
clardch@auburn.edu)