Shell turns to youth to help develop concept truck

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Updated Mar 30, 2016

At the Mid America Trucking Show (MATS) last year, Shell Lubricants announced its partnership with AirFlow Truck Company to develop a hyper-fuel-efficient Class 8 truck and trailer concept vehicle.

The concept truck, dubbed the StarShip, centers on aerodynamics, with the aim being to develop a design that bucks trends in conventional truck design. The companies plan to complete a cross-country fuel economy test with the truck and trailer in 2017.

With 2016 MATS set to kick off this week, Shell is opening a contest to help design the interior of a prototype Class 8 truck.

Normally this type of work falls to career designers and engineers, but realizing a new-school truck will require ingenuity from a new school of thought in design, the company has opened participation to Shell Eco-Marathon participants, as well as high school and college students in Michigan.

The contest is inspired by the Shell Eco-marathon Americas, which challenges student teams to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient vehicle, as well as the AirFlow StarShip Initiative.

Kate Faucher, global marketing projects lead for Shell Lubricants, says the contest is a great opportunity for next generation technology leaders to leave a lasting effect on the betterment of the trucking industry and to push technology, comfort and safety to the next level for the foreseeable future, ” … and hopefully spark a passion that will inspire generations to come.”

Entries will be evaluated on relevance to the design element, design value and quality, concept originality and developmental potential, as well as the following criteria:

Connectedness: The design must provide a connected environment that offers a technological platform that can provide consistent, interoperable and safe operations for all users. Elements to consider for integration include telematics, music, media, entertainment, GPS and more.

Safety: The design must demonstrate that proper safety has been integrated so that it meets current safety requirements. This includes seat belts, mirrors, airbags, etc. The use of connected devices and technology must include safety as a consideration to ensure that they do not distract the drier while operating the vehicle on the road.

Fuel Economy: Develop ways to monitor and increase fuel economy. This can include autonomous driving systems, ways to help the driver alter their driving style to achieve maximum fuel mileage, monitoring of engine and transmission functions, tire pressure and more.

Ergonomics: Design a truck interior that is suitable for driving on highways for long distances. Considerations should include comfort so as to minimize fatigue over a long drive. This includes seating, layout of the interior for easy intuitive use by the operator, integration/use of devices such as smart phones and more. The design can also include an optional living area for the driver.

Student entries will have to connect to at least one and up to all four of the design criteria – connectedness, safety, fuel economy and ergonomics. To enter, students must submit renderings, drawings or sketches showing interior design from several perspectives, with one illustrating a person and their expected driving environment. Additional deliverables include a brief essay about how the design element provides the operator of a Class 8 truck with simple, functional and safe mobility. Entries will be evaluated on the following criteria: relevance to the design element, design value and quality, concept originality and developmental potential.

The Shell Truck Design Challenge runs through April 18. Winning design creators or teams in each of the four categories will be announced at the Shell Eco-Marathon in Detroit in April. For official rules and additional information about the contest, please visit the Shell Truck Design Challenge page located at

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].