Platooning improves fuel economy by at least 10% and Exa simulations calculate optimum distance as 30 feet, with added potential new economy available by booking best slot in platoon.
If Tesla wants its planned electric truck to come with enough range acceptable to haulage fleets, it might need to accelerate research into platooning. Platooning is when smart trucks connect digitally to travel in close convoy, in order to improve overall fuel economy.
The benefits of drafting in this manner have been proven. In April this year, a fleet of trucks from all of the major European manufacturers linked via Wi-Fi to take part in a Dutch-organized transcontinental drive. They cut following distances from around 160 feet to 50 feet and saved around 10 percent on fuel. Exa has partnered with OEMs as well to investigate the platooning effect through simulation. Two papers, presented at SAE International conferences, (2014-01-2436 with Peterbilt and 2015-01-2896 with Volvo) have shown how multi-vehicle platooning impacts the aerodynamics and leads to fuel economy improvement.