Shell’s Starship 2.0 prototype realizes efficiency gains

Electric vehicles are undeniably in the spotlight at ACT Expo, but Shell has arrived at the event with a demonstration vehicle that showcases the efficiency gains still possible with an internal combustion engine. Starship 2.0 – the second generation of a bullet-shaped prototype – gathered data on a run between San Diego and Jacksonville, following the same route the truck’s predecessor traveled in 2018.

Solar panels on the roof of the trailer are designed to reduce the parasitic draw from the alternator. (Photo: Shell)

The highly customized tractor-trailer achieved 254 ton-miles per gallon on the cross-country trip, about 3.5 better than the North American average of 72 ton-miles per gallon, and improving on the 178 ton-miles per gallon of the first Starship. It also carried 18% more payload, which weighed in at 47,100 lb.

Unlike miles per gallon alone, ton-miles per gallon considers the amount of freight being moved as well as the fuel consumed. But even in terms of miles per gallon it has done well. It achieved 10.8 mpg in the cross-country run, compared to the 8.94 mpg of its predecessor, and 6.4 mpg North American fleet average.

Adding to the demonstration was a 400-mile run in North Carolina, hauling a typical 35,000-lb. payload, during which Starship 2.0 achieved 12.0 mpg as well as 210 ton-miles per gallon. “Understanding that not all fleets run fully loaded from coast-to-coast we felt it was important to conduct a variety of tests to provide additional data that can show how trucking efficiencies work in different conditions, in order to provide tangible benefits to the freight transport industry,” Jeff Priborsky, global marketing manager – on-highway fleet sector, said in a related press release. While the truck’s carbon fiber body is borrowed from the first Shell Starship, unveiled in 2018, much has changed underneath.

Starship 2.0 has been built on a 2021 International LT chassis featuring a 2020 Cummins X15 400 EX Efficiency Series engine and Eaton Endurant 12-speed overdrive transmission.

Other changes were made in the name of weight savings and aerodynamics.