Making a big impact is often an issue of scale. Just as increasing the fuel economy on the Ford F-Series makes a bigger collective impact on the nation's fuel consumption than a 1-2-mpg gain on the Prius, a major change in transportation equipment and logistics by a company the size of Walmart could have a major impact on the freight and logistics industry. Although not thought of as a leading-edge company in terms of technology, Walmart is shattering preconceptions by rolling out its second high-tech truck concept over the past two years, the Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience (WAVE?) truck.
The prototype is a collaborative effort among Walmart, Peterbilt, Great Dane Trailers, and Capstone Turbine. The concept is a technological tour de force with a highly aerodynamic cab design, and a microturbine-hybrid powertrain. In addition to the advanced-technology powertrain, the trailer on the concept is made almost entirely out of carbon fiber, saving 4000 pounds over a conventional trailer.
Walmart's first effort was a cabover Class-8 truck prototype tested in Canada dubbed the Supercube, which allowed the shipping of 40 percent more goods than a comparable conventional front-engine cab tractor-trailer combination, with a reduction in transportation costs by 24 percent and 14 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions. Walmart's Canadian operations have already made over 100 deliveries with the Supercube, and are considering expanding its use to U.S. operations. Once federal regulations on tractor-trailer length changed in the 1970s, cabover trucks were almost entirely abandoned in the U.S. market for conventional front-engine trucks, but if companies see significant cost savings from trucks like the Supercube, the Euro-style trucks could make a comeback.