Fuel-saving TruckWings will be option on Agility Fuel conversions (with video)

TruckWings on Class 8 truck

Startup XStream Trucking’s automated TruckWings, which reduce aerodynamic drag and improve fuel economy on Class 8 tractors, will be optional on Agility Fuel Solutions’ compressed natural gas conversions, the companies said Tuesday.

TruckWings work by automatically deploying panels from the back of the cab to cover the tractor-trailer gap at highway speeds. The panels auto-retract at slower speeds, allowing for trailer clearance during turns.

XStream CEO Daniel Burrows told FreightWaves that truck manufacturers have “spent probably tens of millions of dollars” on static cab extenders trying to replicate the function of XStream’s folding panels, which are made of impact-resistant, glass-reinforced composites attached to the rear sides and roof of the cab.

“When we deploy, we get within three inches of the trailer, so we really do fully enclose the sides and the top” of the cab, Burrows said.

UPS test

Agility, owned by Norway’s Hexagon Composites ASA (ose:HEX), has produced 750 CNG conversions with TruckWings. Those trucks have logged more than 45 million miles, netting fuel savings of more than $1 million and reducing carbon emissions by over 7 million pounds.

“Agility’s trucking fleet customers are focused on fuel cost savings and on increasing the fuel economy of their CNG trucks,” said Eric Bippus, Agility’s senior vice president – Global Sales and Marketing. “TruckWings are a great answer to this problem, as we’ve demonstrated in real-world use with some of our major fleet customers,”

An Agility-converted United Parcel Service (NYSE: UPS) unit equipped with TruckWings participated in the Run On Less Regional competition conducted by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) in 2019.

“The area between the tractor trailer can be a big aero drag, larger with bigger gaps experienced in regional haul,” NACFE Executive Director Mike Roeth told FreightWaves. “We have seen [fuel] savings as much as 5% due to the fact that side winds occur more in the real world than is replicated in wind tunnels.”

Simple but complex

The results from TruckWings are promising, Roeth said.

“Early reports on reliability are good but will be something we all will continue to watch,” he said. “These movable parts must survive.”

TruckWings look simple in operation, but looks can often be deceiving, Burrows said.

“To make a system durable that opens and closes for a million miles of driving, you’re talking about high-impact composites, airflow systems, pneumatic systems” and more, he said. “It took us three years of dedicated time to come up with a system that works.”

TruckWings’ parts weigh about 200 pounds and cost about $4,000 per unit plus installation. The payback is 12-18 months, Burrows said. A stand-alone telematics system in the cab allows drivers and fleet managers to track how often TruckWings are deployed, how much fuel is saved and the dollar value of the savings.

“Every gap that is closed is worth about the emissions of [taking] up to two cars off the freeway,” Burrows said.

Exposure value

Though the deal with XStream is exclusive to North America, Agility’s customer list is a global who’s who of truck makers. The exposure value for Extreme’s product is enormous.

“This will be an option for all the Agility CNG trucks, which obviously is a small part of the (overall trucking) market,” Burrows said.

Redwood City, California-based XStream is negotiating TruckWIngs deals with two major truck manufacturers it could not name because of nondisclosure agreements.

The 5-year-old company Burrows founded has raised $15.5 million, including $10.5 million in a Series A round in May 2019.

“I started this to get TruckWings on as many trucks as possible in North America and globally,” Burrows said. “If there’s a truck maker that wants to lean forward and work with us to integrate with them, that’s great. What I wouldn’t be open for is something that takes us out of the market but doesn’t really get us distribution.”