Walmart, Peterbilt, ROUSH, Great Dane and Capstone Turbine were among the innovators who unveiled new technology at the recent Mid-American Trucking Show.
Walmart showcased its futuristic Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience (WAVE), a prototype tractor-trailer combination that features leading edge aerodynamics, an advanced turbine-powered range extending series hybrid power train, electrified auxiliary components, and sophisticated control systems all in one package, developed in support of the company's industry-leading sustainability program.
The prototype is the result of collaboration between Walmart and many vendors, including Peterbilt, ROUSH, Great Dane and Capstone Turbine. Almost every component on this vehicle is cutting edge and showcases innovations of the future that will drive increased efficiencies, according to the company.
In 2005, Wal-Mart, one of the nation's largest private fleet operators, announced its goal to double fleet efficiency by 2015. Walmart trucks log millions of miles every year and its goals for sustainability and fleet efficiency centered on delivering an increased amount of merchandise with a more efficient delivery system. As of last year, the company had achieved an 84 percent improvement in fleet efficiency over its 2005 baseline.
"Walmart is continually looking for innovative ways to increase our efficiencies and reduce our fleet's emissions," said Tracy Rosser, senior vice president of transportation at Walmart. "The WAVE is a bold step in transportation technologies that, although not on the road in its current form, will serve as a learning platform for the future that will accelerate our progress toward our goals."
According to Rosser, innovation is key to improvement and the project aims to demonstrate a wide range of cutting edge technologies and designs Walmart is considering in an effort to improve the overall fuel efficiency of its fleet and lower the company's carbon footprint. Although the prototype currently runs on diesel, its turbine is fuel neutral and can run on compressed or liquid natural gas, biofuels or other fuels.
Walmart and Peterbilt have collaborated on aerodynamic, hybrid, electrification and alternative fuel projects in the past, each with incremental gains in fuel efficiency and emission reductions. The WAVE tractor combines many of these projects in a single vehicle.
"Peterbilt's goals of producing the most fuel-efficient, aerodynamic, and lightweight trucks in the industry mirror those of Walmart," said Landon Sproull, chief engineer at Peterbilt. "Our combined efforts help build a business case for these technologies in the future, as well as support one of our best customers."
Designers used extensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis to optimize the truck's styling. The truck's shape represents a 20 percent reduction in aerodynamic drag over Walmart’s current Peterbilt Model 386. By placing the cab over the engine, the truck's wheelbase is greatly shortened, resulting in reduced weight and better maneuverability. Walmart relied on product development supplier ROUSH to carry out the vehicle's construction with these detailed design specifications.
"We work every day with customers from the automotive and aerospace industries, all of whom have a laser focus on maximizing efficiencies through improved aerodynamics," said Tom Topper, ROUSH's executive director of prototype services. "This design is revolutionary and truly world class."
The truck features a micro turbine Range Extender generator developed by Capstone Turbine Corporation. The company also engineered the truck's integrated hybrid drive train solution. The use of a hybrid power train allows the turbine to remain at optimum operating revolutions per minute (RPM), while the electric motor/energy storage handles acceleration and deceleration. A longer-range version of this power train would feature a larger turbine and smaller energy storage system.
"We developed this micro turbine hybrid electric drive system by assembling the best team of technology leaders in the industry," said Steve Gillette, director of business development for Capstone. "We look forward to the day when these energy-saving features are standard offers for the market."
Manufactured by Great Dane, the trailer design offers a host of fuel-saving features. The trailer body is built almost exclusively with carbon fiber, including one-piece carbon fiber panels for the roof and sidewalls, saving nearly 4,000 pounds when compared to traditional designs. The trailer's convex nose also enhances aerodynamics while maintaining storage space inside the trailer.
Other special features of the trailer include special low-amperage LED lighting strips, composite trailer skirts, aerodynamic disc wheel coverings, a Posi-lift suspension, and a one-piece, fiberglass-reinforced floor panel with a 16,000 pound forklift rating.
"This road-ready prototype trailer is a bold step in transportation technologies," said Adam Hill, vice president of product and sales engineering at Great Dane. "We look forward to further collaboration with Walmart to create more fuel-efficient vehicles of this type in the future."