Since the first phase of the Starship truck and demonstration run were completed in the spring of 2018, Shell have made additional technology updates and improvements to the truck. We hope to continue the conversation around freight ton efficiency and prove how much better we can be. Stay tuned to see Starship 2.0 as it is debuted in the first half of 2021. We intend to take it out on another coast to coast demonstration run to compare to the initial results.

Rotella Starship


The pursuit of significant fuel economy gains for class 8 trucks and trailers is a challenging process given the size and traditional construction of a tractor and trailer. However, with new fuel economy regulations on the horizon and the need for continuing advances in fuel economy, Shell Lubricants recognises that a holistic approach to making fuel economy gains is important.

Shell Lubricants and AirFlow Truck Company joined forces to develop a hyper-fuel efficient Class 8 tractor trailer, Starship—and are sending it coast-to-coast to see just how energy efficient goods transport by road can be. Follow along with the journey #ShellStarship.

This is an exciting project for Shell that allows us to remain at the leading edge of technology development, energy efficiency and sustainability. The transportation industry is dynamic and we intend to stay at the forefront of innovation – collaborating with companies like AirFlow and other suppliers to develop creative solutions that will benefit the industry for years to come.

The pursuit of significant fuel economy gains for class 8 trucks and trailers is a challenging process given the size and traditional construction of a tractor and trailer. With new fuel economy regulations on the horizon and the need for continuing advances in fuel economy, Shell Lubricants recognises that a holistic approach to making fuel economy gains is important. This includes advances in engine and drive train technology, the use of low viscosity synthetic lubricants, aerodynamic designs, efficient driving methods and more. During our continuous on-highway testing of Shell heavy diesel engine oils and other lubricants, we always seek to understand how efficiencies can be gained across the whole truck.

Learn More About Starship

About Starship

The Starship Initiative is designed to explore the future of what’s possible in truck design, fuel economy savings and CO2 reduction.

  • Aerodynamics:
    • Bespoke 100% hyper-aerodynamic carbon fiber Cab
    • Active Grill Shutters (active based on temperature to maximize aerodynamics and maximize efficiency)
    • Aerodynamic boat tail for streamlined air flow around truck and drag reduction
  • Efficiency:
    • Hybrid electric axle system for a power boost while climbing grades
    • Custom automatic tire inflation system for consistent tire pressure and optimal fuel economy
    • Downspeed axle configuration provides improved efficiency and pulling power
    • 5000 Watt solar array charges and stores power for normal electrical components
  • Shell Technologies for Starship:
    • Utilizes full synthetic Shell Heavy Duty Engine Oil
    • Spirax S6 GXME 75W-80 transmission oil, Spirax S5 ADE 75W-85 differential oil and Spirax S6 GME 40 wheel hub oil for performance and protection

Startship Truck Specifcations

Starship Truck Technology

Shell Lubricants and the AirFlow Truck Company, will demonstrate the performance of this vehicle during a coast-to-coast drive in the USA. The drive will begin in San Diego, California and end in Jacksonville, Florida. The drive will stop along the way to discuss with local truckers and others on what’s possible in reducing costs, emissions and increasing efficiency.

The performance of the truck, including freight tonne efficiency and fuel economy, will be measured along the way and the full results will be shared publicly as of June 5. The measurement will be done using an on-board telematics system and will be verified by an independent third party, the North American Council on Freight Efficiency (NACFE).

This next-generation concept truck, uses a range of technologies commercially available in markets around the world, to minimise the amount of energy it takes to transport cargo from one point to another, also known as freight tonne efficiency. The truck features a custom-designed cab combined with several advanced technologies, which are available today, to improve efficiency, reduce drag and improve aerodynamics. On its journey the truck will carry the maximum viable amount of freight within the allowed gross vehicle weight.

Find out more about Freight Tonne Efficiency and how Starship’s performance is measured by downloading this infographic:

Starship Freight Tonne Efficiency

The results of the coast to coast run are in. Find out more here.

Shell and AirFlow Truck Company demonstrate a 248% improvement in freight tonne efficiency with the Starship truck

Co-Engineering Process

The relationship with AirFlow Truck Company is part of a collaborative process fostered by Shell Lubricants that encourages co-engineering. Part of this process is to work with others to cooperatively design hardware and fluids with the goal to improve fuel economy and other efficiencies. The Shell Lubricants team is providing technical consultation on engine and drivetrain components and recommendations for lubricant needs for use in the Starship truck. 

This technical alliance and the opportunity to work closely on the development of the next generation AirFlow truck is exciting, especially having the ability to test some of our newest engine oils in a cutting-edge vehicle will provide us with some valuable information as we create lower viscosity engine oils without sacrificing performance.

AirFlow Truck Company

AirFlow Truck Company has built two previous aerodynamic and fuel-efficient Class 8 tractor trailers, the first in 1983 and the most recent in 2012. The most recent rig, dubbed the Bullet Truck, ran coast-to-coast hauling freight at 65,000 pounds gross vehicle weight and averaged a record 13.4 mpg.

Rotella Starship robert silwa

The Team Behind the Truck

Robert Sliwa – Owner – Airflow Truck Company

After six years of regional trucking, Robert ‘Bob’ Sliwa opened his own over-the-road trucking company. After realizing how inefficient long-haul trucks were, (he could only average 4.4 mpg) Bob began modifying his cabover and tweaking one thing at a time until he reached 10 mpg.

He began work on a second super-aerodynamic and hyper fuel-efficient Class 8 rig, the BulletTruck, in 2009. He introduced it to the public and began weekly “real-world” freight hauling runs with it in 2012.

And for the last few years, Bob has been designing and building Starship with a small crew in New Britain, Connecticut.

Project M - Bob Mainwaring

Bob Mainwairing – Technology and Innovation Manager, Shell Lubricants

Bob is a mechanical engineer and leads Shell’s global automotive engine and lubricant research team for Starship.

Bob leads many co-engineering projects for Shell including the Shell Concept Car, an urban vehicle that uses less energy than other cars available today. The Shell Concept Car sought to explore the role that lightweighting, streamlining and lubrication played in personal transport, much like the Starship Initiative which explores the equivalent for freight transport.

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