Clean Technology Could Create Carbon Negative Advertising

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By Crystal Arvigo

Would Carbon Negative Advertising Influence your Perception of a Product? Please weigh in with your thoughts!

An opportunity exists today, with currently available technology to transform an advertising billboard as we know it into an environmentally beneficial device that could roughly offset the greenhouse gas emissions of two passenger vehicles for one year, every year that it is used. How is this possible, you ask?

What if tractor-trailers, whose average fuel economy is 6 miles per gallon, could be given a facelift by adding two proven aerodynamic devices – a TrailerTail and trailer side skirt – paid for by advertisers? The humdrum trailer would thus be transformed into a rolling billboard and carbon offset (see video in link), providing national visibility for the advertiser, nearly one mile per gallon fuel savings for the trucker and the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of taking about two cars off the road per year.

Here’s how the numbers play out:

  • Tractor-trailers travel between 20,000 and 150,000 miles per year or more, across the nation’s highways.
  • The two aerodynamic devices mentioned above help to streamline the turbulent air flowing behind and under the trailer, reducing aerodynamic drag (shown in image below) and improving fuel efficiency to the tune of 16 gallons of fuel saved for every 1000 miles driven.
Fluid dynamic modeling of aerodynamic drag and air turbulence
  • Using an average of 60,000 miles travelled per year by each tractor-trailer, per US EPA estimates of average passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions, the aerodynamic devices would offset the greenhouse gas emissions of two cars every year.
  • There are over 2 million tractor-trailers currently in circulation in the United States, averaging only 6 miles per gallon.
  • There are between 500,000 and 1 million billboards in the U.S. today.
  • The economic and environmental impact of 2 million tractor-trailers being outfitted with aerodynamic equipment serving as rolling billboards would be approximately a $40 billion reduction in U.S. fossil fuel imports and elimination of 200 million tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere from tractor-trailers (over the next decade).  Additionally, over 5000 green jobs would be created in the United States over 5 years to support the equipment manufacturing and installation.
  • The average billboard ad costs about $500 per month, or about $6000 per year.
  • The up-front average cost to outfit a tractor-trailer with aerodynamic equipment is about $3500 – almost half of the billboard’s annual cost, and the equipment would remain with the tractor-trailer through its 7-10 year useful life, continuing to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions with every year, and every mile.
  • Aerodynamic equipment also adds significant safety benefits to tractor-trailers.  By reducing air turbulence around the trailer, the trailer is more stable and less susceptible to swaying in windy on-road conditions as well as generating dangerous road spray behind and around the trailer in wet weather.  Finally, trailer side skirts act as a shield to prevent cars or other objects from sliding under the trailer and TrailerTails® increase the following and braking distance between the rear of a tractor-trailer and other vehicles.

Would this “green” advertising appeal to you and affect your perception of a company’s product, knowing the economic, environmental and safety impact this advertising choice would make?

Would you like to see more carbon negative advertising?

About the author:  Crystal Arvigo is a Sustainable Management MBA student at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco.  She works for ATDynamics, the leading supplier of tractor-trailer rear drag aerodynamic technology and is passionate about questioning the way things are done to uncover smarter solutions that are beneficial to the environment and society.