Aerodynamics


When I was younger I was really in to TV. Lots of TV! I’m pretty sure it rotted my brain, but I think it also spurred my visual imagination, and precursed some of the imaging skills I have today. As a teenager I liked the typical action movies, but I also really got into nature and technology shows. They gave me a vision of growing up and one day discovering or inventing something important for the world. Now, that hasn’t happened yet, but maybe one of these days I’ll get to it.

One of my favorite show on the Discovery Channel was an Australian show called Beyond 2000. They had segments on all the latest technological and science developments from around the world. As the 90’s progressed, the name seemed a bit passé, so they changed it to Beyond Tomorrow, but by that point the show was on its way out.

I remember seeing shows that featured techs like E-Ink, which is now in use in the B&W Kindle, wrist watch video screens (Ipod Nano) and futuristic vehicles. They had one show about the flying car, which I think is still in the works, and another one about hybrid transport trucks with aerodynamic spoilers and hydrolic, regenerative braking. Very cool and cutting edge stuff back then, and unfortunately even for today.

Nearly everything I saw on those show was in production, and at some point over the last 20 years some of it has popped up in our lives. The ones that never came to be, though, have always made me wonder about the politics and business side of what products make it out of the labs. For example: why haven’t trucking lines spent time and money upgrading their trucks. They are in the business of efficiency and energy use, so why has it taken so long to do the very, VERY simple things that save huge amounts of fuel and money. I remember from that TV show back in the 90’s that adding an aerodynamic cone to the back of a truck would save 30% in fuel costs, and a hybrid braking system another quarter. That seems HUGE, and cheap to implement. Why haven’t we seen them?

My guess has always been that fuel costs are unnaturally low in this country (A book I read on the subject as a teenager was Against Empire by Michael Parenti ), so truckers never bothered. My guess now is that there have been DMV regulations, and a set of anti-progress capitalists (An oxymoron?) that prevented anything from sticking out past the main trailer.

With the price of gas inching higher and higher with every boom-crash cycle, I suppose I was bound to see something turn up. On our trip to Arizona a few weeks ago I saw this truck, and a few others, retrofitted with some aerodynamic spoilers, presumably within DMV codes yet shaped to improve gas mileage. Finally; though not as cool looking as I had imagined.

Just think, some technology we will probably need today to beat the peak energy curve has been around for at least 20 years. What other simple techs are out there that might save our globally warmed butts? And that some schmoe buried for the sake of a quick buck?

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