Over the past decade, trailer innovation has accelerated in response to ever more demanding requirements from clientele wanting greater load capacity, faster turnaround at the bay, improved aerodynamic efficiency and less unladen weight. Safety too has played a key role in the development of new features to eliminate or reduce risk wherever possible.
Perhaps most noteworthy has been the launch of ‘Plasma Actuators’. Seen for the first time at the Commercial Vehicle Show earlier this year, this technology electronically alters airflow to improve aerodynamic efficiency without having to compromise on cubic volume, apertures or height.
Each Plasma Actuator (or its technical term ‘Single Dielectric Barrier Discharge) has two asymmetric electrodes separated by an insulating layer (the dielectric layer). When a voltage is passed across the electrodes, ionised air is accelerated through the electric field which creates an artificial airflow. This airflow can be directed in a number of ways to either emulate physical add-ons such as boat-tails or to re-attach airflow at points such as the front pillars.
One might think Plasma Actuators belong in a Sci-Fi film but in reality, the phenomenon has been well documented since 2003 and has been in use in aeronautics (including the US Air Force and NASA) for some time. Don-Bur are blazing the trail with the application to commercial vehicles.
Although the exciting technology was debuted at the CV Show, there is still much work to be done. Working in partnership with Glasgow University and other partners, development work is being undertaken to optimise the airflow capabilities and refine a production model.
As mentioned, safety has played a major part in recent innovations and Don-Bur has unveiled the fourth iteration of their award-winning ground coupling system. Ground coupling systems allow the driver to couple/ uncouple by the side of the vehicle without having to access the area between cab and trailer; an area generally classified as high-risk for slips, trips and any number of other bodily injuries. The latest design (Patent applied for) is the simplest so far, with very few moving parts. Critically, it stows the coupling plate more centrally on the front bulkhead while still able to extend outward to a comfortable chest height when standing next to the trailer.
The Teardrop is now in its maturity but recently, the design is being continually tweaked for several European applications. The first Teardrop “Euro” was produced in 2010 and although it was proven to be aerodynamically efficient (13.18% saving at 50mph), it sat on 215/75 R17.5 twin tyres, had a rear aperture height of 2.24m and had an unladen weight of over 8,500kgs. The latest Teardrop trailer to be delivered to Europe has more standard 385/65 R22.5 super singles and the rear aperture height is an impressive 2.4m (7’10 ½”). Despite being fitted with a rear steer axle and retractable tail-lift, it has an unladen weight of under 8,000kgs.
Despite a slow start, Don-Bur is also keen to push forward their aerodynamic ‘Aeris’ system which bridges the gap between tractor and trailer. There is currently no provision to allow the system within current C&U regulations but Don-Bur are working with the VCA to enable valuable VSO trials; the results of which will be considered for future regulation.
Don-Bur continues to assess the latest technology available and is passionate about innovative development. The new CIP system (Continuous Improvement Process) has provided valuable operational feedback to the engineering focus groups which stimulates new thought processes and encourages constantly evolving designs which will ultimately add value for the customer base.
← The latest LowGlide Safe Ground Coupling system
← Visual showing slipstream from double deck trailer fitted with plasma actuators
← Visual showing plasma actuators fitted to a trailer rearframe
← European aerodynamic Teardrop trailer
← "Aeris" aerodynamic tractor-trailer device
Written by: Richard Owens
Published by: Don-Bur