In February Walmart unveiled what its dubbed the WAVE (Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience) concept truck as part of a broader push to incorporate sustainability into the megastore’s operations. According to the company statement, the truck will be 20 percent more aerodynamic than the current fleet and will use a “micro-turbine hybrid powertrain” than can run on diesel, natural gas, biodiesel and “probably other fuels still to be developed.”
“I share it because it gives you a sense of how sustainability is helping us see things in new ways,” wrote Doug McMillon, President & CEO of Walmart. Of course, economics also help Walmart see things in new ways, and with a fleet of over 6,000 trucks, switching to something like the WAVE could save Walmart a lot of money.
While Walmart hasn’t released any fuel consumption figures, the WAVE’s trailer is made out of carbon fiber — the first of its kind — which reduced the weight of the big rig by 4,000 pounds per vehicle. The 53-foot one-piece side panels along with other aerodynamic innovations will certainly help increase the truck’s efficiency above the standard 5.5 to 6.5 MPG that semis get. If the changes were able to bring the truck above 10 MPG, cost savings could add up to $25,000 or more per 120,000 miles, depending on diesel prices, according to Gas2.org.
In the prototype, the driver sits racecar-style in the center of the cabin allowing for a more aerodynamic design. LCD panels line the dash and there’s a full-size sleeper cabin in the back. Unfortunately for the future, the WAVE is unlikely to hit the road anytime soon. However Walmart still has plans to double its fleet efficiency by 2015. The company plans to add over 1,000 new tractors that are 12 percent more efficient than existing vehicles this year — a move projected to save over $40 million.
Last month President Obama announced plans for improved fuel-efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles as the latest move in his Climate Action Plan. The Administration also has a SuperTruck initiative run through the Department of Energy (DOE) that aims to develop tractor-trailers that are 50 percent more efficient than baseline models by 2015. If all Class 8 trucks, or 18-wheelers, in the U.S. were so efficient the country would consume nearly 300 million fewer barrels of oil and spend nearly $30 billion less on fuel each year, according to the U.S. DOE.
In revealing his new fuel efficiency standards last month, Obama stood in front of a display SuperTruck developed by manufacturers Cummins and Peterbilt that demonstrated a 20 percent increase in engine efficiency and 70 percent increase in freight efficiency, and reached over the 10 MPG goal of many in the industry.