Fuel Smarts

Walmart Shows Off Futuristic Tractor-Trailer

February 18, 2014

By Tom Berg

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A futuristically styled tractor powered by a microturbine-electric hybrid drive system and a trailer made of lightweight carbon fiber comprise a concept rig shown off by Walmart Stores at a sustainability conference early this week.

The rig demonstrates materials and electro-mechanical systems that could help the giant retailer get further to its goal of reducing by half its energy use by 2015, executives said. They set that goal in 2005 and are now 80% there through greater efficiencies in transport procedures and energy efficiencies in its stores and other facilities, they had previously reported.

Peterbilt Motors, Capstone Turbine and Great Dane Trailer are among suppliers who assembled the vehicle, the company said. Walmart posted a 1-minute video on YouTube that explains some of the truck’s features:

The cabin tilts, cab-over-engine style, to reveal the turbine, generator, battery pack and electric motor that powers the  tandem-rear axles. A sliding door allows access to the interior.

The driver sits in the center of the streamlined cabin with electronic-readout instrument panels on either side of the steering wheel, which sports a red Peterbilt oval, and sleeping accommodations are at the rear.

The trailer is a standard 53 feet long, but its walls are first-of-a-kind continuous panels of carbon fiber, the video’s narrator says. Its nose is “convex” – rounded like trailers of the 1930s – to smooth air flow and add cargo space.

Aerodynamic side skirts and wheel covers -- items readily available today -- adorn the trailer, which carries Walmart markings and "53'," along with a unit number.

The company calls the rig the Wal-Mart Advanced Vehicle Experience, or WAVE. Executives don’t say how much more aerodynamic or lightweight the vehicle is, or whether they’ll actually purchase rigs like it.

To see more visions of future trucks, see our photo gallery.

Comments

  1. 1. Abalama [ February 19, 2014 @ 01:38PM ]

    I don't understand how they claim they have extra cargo space in the front of the trailer when they round off the front corners. Cargo is not allowed to be carried in any portion of a 53' trailer that extends beyond the ends of the 53' box, unless they get a special oversize trip permit. Maybe they are just planning to run this thing intrastate instead of operating in interstate commerce, but most states laws are already in line with the federal rules.

    Other than that, it looks like a great concept. Turbines can run on just about any liquid that will burn, so fuels could be changed as markets vary, to use whatever fuel gives the lowest cost per mile.

  2. 2. Abalama [ February 19, 2014 @ 02:20PM ]

    I don't understand how they claim they have extra cargo space in the front of the trailer when they round off the front corners. Cargo is not allowed to be carried in any portion of a 53' trailer that extends beyond the ends of the 53' box, unless they get a special oversize trip permit. Maybe they are just planning to run this thing intrastate instead of operating in interstate commerce, but most states laws are already in line with the federal rules.

    Other than that, it looks like a great concept. Turbines can run on just about any liquid that will burn, so fuels could be changed as markets vary, to use whatever fuel gives the lowest cost per mile.

  3. 3. Aaron [ February 19, 2014 @ 08:13PM ]

    Good luck backing that thing up. And I hope the driver is very lucky, because all that open frontage means death in any wreck and sunburn and glare otherwise.

    As for your comments, Abalama, you're close. It's not cargo that the feds care about, it's overall vehicle length. You have 80 feet to do with as you will, but have to have the pivot point, rear trailer axle, and overall bridge law weights in line with their guidelines. Most states, with a few exceptions for specific roadways, comply with those rules.

  4. 4. Abalama [ February 20, 2014 @ 01:39PM ]

    The Surface Transportation Assistance Act allows for 53' max length trailers if operated on the National Network in Interstate Commerce. Otherwise, the length limit is 48'. There are exemptions to the 53' length for refers, aerodynamic & safety devices, but that extra space cannot carry cargo.

    Sorry about the double post. I waited nearly an hour for anything to happen after hitting the submit button, so I hit it again, getting a confirmation right away the second time.

  5. 5. Ed [ February 21, 2014 @ 06:54AM ]

    Nice concept but the following are not addressed:
    Why not use cameras for all rear viewing including one in the blind spot behind the trailer. Moderately priced cars have this feature and it can be cheaper than the mirrors, cuts air drag, and reduces the width of the vehicle.
    I also did not see any reference to LPG or hydrogen fuel options which are moving forward and will reduce pollution.
    Aerodynamic trailer doors are also a big help.

  6. 6. Ed [ February 21, 2014 @ 06:54AM ]

    Nice concept but the following are not addressed:
    Why not use cameras for all rear viewing including one in the blind spot behind the trailer. Moderately priced cars have this feature and it can be cheaper than the mirrors, cuts air drag, and reduces the width of the vehicle.
    I also did not see any reference to LPG or hydrogen fuel options which are moving forward and will reduce pollution.
    Aerodynamic trailer doors are also a big help.

  7. 7. Reality Check [ February 24, 2014 @ 06:34AM ]

    Until a better substitute for the battery is invented, the electric/hybrid concept is dead!
    The turbine engine while extremely reliable and versatile in its ability to run on different fuels, is only efficient if you cogen with the heat off the backside of the engine and the engine is running under a full constant load. ie: generator, which is where Capstone comes in.
    While gaseous fuels have a certain "green appeal" they are highly inefficient in the volumes it takes to operate transportation vehicles
    over long distances.
    Looks like "Back to the Future" with an updated GM Dreamliner

  8. 8. Stupid here [ March 05, 2014 @ 08:08AM ]

    Wondering how you're going to get Schneider and Hunt to buy these pipe dreams?????????????????????????
    And in a crash I bet everything forward of trailer bulkhead is dead or seriously injured.

  9. 9. albert [ April 02, 2014 @ 10:08AM ]

    Whats the starting price on one of these trucks here.

 

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