Retail giant Walmart recently revealed a concept for a more fuel-efficient truck called the Advanced Vehicle Experience. The truck is the product of a partnership with Peterbilt, Great Dane Trailers, and Capstone Turbine, and could pave the way for the future of Walmart's delivery fleet by drastically cutting the amount of fuel needed to get products to Walmart shelves.
The Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience is part of the company's goal to double its fleet fuel efficiency by 2015, compared to levels in 2005. To that end, the truck gets a dramatically new design that is said to produce 20 percent less aerodynamic drag than current, boxy trucks. The cab is extremely narrow, with an enormous wrap-around windshield, and it sits atop curved fenders designed to smoothly channel air over the wheels.
The cab's outside design forced a rethink of the inside, where the driver now sits centrally for better visibility. He or she can tailor the pair of large displays at either side of the steering wheel to show any data desired, including exterior cameras or fuel economy information. The cab still fits a full-size sleeper area, and the driver's door slides so that it can be opened more easily in cramped areas.
While the aerodynamic design will save a lot of fuel, Walmart also took liberties with the idea of what should power a big truck. The concept truck uses a microturbine engine that can run on diesel fuel, natural gas, biodiesel, or plain old gasoline. A battery pack and an electric motor turns the truck into a series hybrid and further reduces fuel consumption.
The final step in Walmart’s pursuit of fuel efficiency is the new trailer, which features 53-foot carbon-fiber panels. Walmart notes that it is the first time anyone has produced such large, flat panels purely out of carbon fiber. All told, the truck and trailer weighs 4000 pounds less than a contemporary model, which means it could hypothetically transport an additional 4000 pounds of goods compared to today's trucks. The leading edges of the trailer are also rounded to improve aerodynamic performance.
Walmart notes that the Advanced Vehicle Experience is just a concept and, "will evolve before it's ready for the road." It's clear, however, that the company -- along with its technical partners -- is evaluating ways to save fuel on as its trucks rack up millions of miles annually traveling to all 4800 of Walmart's U.S. outlets. For more details, check out the video about the truck below.