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.

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