Thursday, March 26, 2015

Shell enters aerodynamics arena to sponsor the AirFlow ‘Starship’

Being at the cutting edge of aerodynamic truck design has been a passion for Bob Sliwa and his AirFlow Truck Company for more than three decades. Conceiving his first prototype cabover in 1983, Sliwa has poured his own money into a pair of prototypes that get approximately twice as many miles to the gallon as average industry standards. It’s all about the chase.

With sponsorship and backing from Shell Lubricants, Sliwa is on the chase again, vowing to bring his third prototype hyper miler into the public arena.

The next generation AirFlow prototype truck, the Starship,
will debut in 2017 thanks to Shell sponsorship.
(Submitted image)
During the Mid-America Trucking Show on Thursday, March 26, Sliwa and Shell North American Marketing Manager Dave Waterman announced their partnership to develop the AirFlow “Starship” and show the world what it can do.

They hope to debut the Starship in 2017 with the aim of breaking current fuel efficiency records.

“This is an exciting project for Shell that allows us to remain at the leading edge of technology development, energy efficiency and sustainability,” said Selda Gunsel, vice-president of technology for Shell Global Solutions. “The transportation industry is dynamic and we intend to stay at the forefront of innovation – collaborating with companies like AirFlow to develop creative solutions that will benefit the industry for years to come.”

Having Shell behind him as a sponsor has energized Sliwa, a self-described tinkerer. And like his fellow racing enthusiasts, he recognizes that there are a lot of tinkerers out there who do amazing mods in their garages but do not hit the limelight because they don’t have the backing to get their machines out of the garage.

“It is a pleasure to work with a technology leader like the team at Shell Lubricants who also believe that there is lot that can be gained for the trucking industry with the development of more advanced and efficient trucks,” Sliwa said. “Building an efficient truck that could possibly be used by truckers across America is an exciting challenge.”

Sliwa has already proved that his trucks can haul freight. His 2012 prototype, the AirFlow Bullet Truck, achieved 13.4 mpg while grossing 65,000 pounds on a coast-to-coast run that included multiple freight drops, headwinds and mountain grades.

To achieve new levels with the Starship beyond side skirts and boat tails, Sliwa has built a mechanism that closes the gap between truck and trailer when the vehicle reaches a speed of 35 mph.

When asked if the prototype would perhaps forgo EPA emissions regulations to achieve higher fuel mileage, Sliwa and Waterman said absolutely not.

"This truck will be 100 percent certified to run," Waterman said.

As sponsor, Shell announced it will provide technical consultation on engine and drivetrain components as well as lubricant needs. Part of that will feature the next generation of motor oils that are categorized as PC-11 and will be ready to hit the market as early as 2017. Shell answers the question “What is PC-11?” on a website,

Shell’s OEM Technical Manager Dan Arcy calls the prospect of lending AirFlow a hand exciting. “The ability to test some of our newest PC-11 engine oils in a cutting-edge vehicle will provide us with some valuable information as we work to create lower viscosity engine oils without sacrificing performance,” Arcy said.

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