Mark Chodas and I put together a project to test the viability of boat-tails as a way to reduce drag on semi-trucks. We built a 1/27th scale model for initial tests at the MIT Wright Brothers wind tunnel.

The tests showed a 40-50% reduction in total drag using the equivalent of a long 3 meter tail. This translates to a 25% reduction in fuel consumption, or $35 billion per year in the US if every semi-truck was outfitted with a long tail.

Further tests tests were scrapped after we discovered there’s a legal limit on the length of drag-reducing airfoils of only 5 feet :(