An experimental investigation of the aerodynamic flows created by lorries travelling in a long platoon

Francis Robertson, Frederick Bourriez, Mingzhe He, David Soper, Christopher Baker, Hassan Hemida, Mark Sterling

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6 Citations (Scopus)
289 Downloads (Pure)


The concept of autonomous road vehicles has recently gained a great deal of technical respectability. Expected advantages over normal driver-controlled vehicles are through increased safety, reliability and fuel efficiency. This paper presents a novel experimental study enabling for the first time a full understanding of the aerodynamic flow development of a long vehicle platoon. Moving model experiments were carried out at the University of Birmingham Transient Aerodynamic Investigation (TRAIN) rig facility on a 1/20th scale eight lorry platoon with three constant vehicle spacings. Slipstream velocity and pressures, as well as simultaneous on-board vehicle surface pressure measurements were made. Results indicated a highly turbulent boundary layer development, with slipstream pulse peaks near the front of each lorry; similar to previous findings on flows around container freight trains. The drag coefficient of an isolated lorry was in agreement with previous studies. There are substantial reductions in aerodynamic drag for the non-leading platoon vehicles. Drag results plateaued towards a constant value within the platoon. Vehicle spacing affected drag values, with decreases of 57% observed for the closest spacing of half a vehicle length, demonstrating the aerodynamic benefits of platooning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103966
JournalJournal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics
Early online date22 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • Vehicle aerodynamics
  • Lorry
  • Platoon
  • Slipstream
  • Drag reduction
  • Experimental study
  • Model-scale


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