Metro Weekly

Walmart’s semi will blow your mind

As President Obama cracks down on improving fuel economy standards for the semi-trailer trucks that roam our nation’s highways, manufacturers are looking at ways to reduce the gas that these land beasts guzzle. Walmart is one of the largest owners of semi-trucks in the country, with a fleet of 6,500 vehicles, and has decided to step up and do something about the fuel economy of its trucks.

Already something of a market leader in fuel-efficiency, having deployed a series of test vehicles with hybrid drivetrains, the world’s largest retailer decided to take things a drastic step further and create the WAVE concept. WAVE, or Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience, is a one-of-a-kind prototype which brings a raft of “firsts” to the market.

Featuring class-leading aerodynamics for both the cab itself and the trailer, powered by a turbine-equipped, range-extending series hybrid powertrain and extensively utilizing carbon fiber in the construction process, the WAVE is incredibly efficient for its size.

Overall weight has been reduced by 4,000 pounds compared with a standard semi, in part because the trailer features the world’s largest carbon fiber panels, at 53 feet. Inside, the driver sits in the centre of the cabin, with vast displays either side of the wheel replacing most of the switchgear and panels found in a normal cab. Entry to the plush, white cabin is through electric-sliding doors — another aerodynamic feature.

Walmart’s goal is to improve fuel economy across its fleet from the average of 5-6 mpg up to at least 10, which could reap savings of over $25,000 per 120,000 miles traveled by a truck. If it manages to bring even a portion of the WAVE’s futuristic looks to its updated fleet, America’s roads will look very different indeed.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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