Walmart Introduces WAVE Concept Big Rig (w/video)

FEB 24 2014 BY MARK KANE 34

Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience WAVE

Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience WAVE

Walmart recently presented some kind of futuristic range-extended series hybrid tractor-trailer called the WAVE.

It features a Capstone turbine, some undisclosed battery pack and an electric motor.

According to Walmart, the concept truck is 20 percent more aerodynamic than current trucks in its fleet of 7,000 units.

“The Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience, or WAVE, concept truck is the latest in our fleet efficiency program. The one-of-a-kind prototype offers a whole package of firsts. The tractor has very advanced aerodynamics and is powered by a prototype advanced turbine-powered, range-extending series hybrid powertrain. The trailer is made almost exclusively with carbon fiber, saving around 4,000 pounds which can then be used to carry more freight.”

Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience WAVE

Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience WAVE

There are few details on WAVE, but it seems there should be some limited amount of range in EV mode.

What’s also interesting is that Transport Topics cites a statement from Chris Sultemeier, executive vice president and head of corporate transportation services for WalMart saying that the company will buy 2,000 hydrogen-fueled forklift trucks.

“Chris Sultemeier, executive vice president and head of corporate transportation services for Wal-Mart, said the company also has agreed to buy 2,000 hydrogen-fueled forklift trucks for use in its U.S. and Canadian distribution centers.”

Source: Walmart, Transport Topics

Categories: General


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34 Comments on "Walmart Introduces WAVE Concept Big Rig (w/video)"

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Its about time. I’ve wondered why tractor trailers have been using 50 year old technology.

Looks like you’ve have to keep waiting. This is nothing but marketing fluff.

For aerodynamics, the rear of the trailer is where most of the losses are. Modern trucks have picked all the low lying fruit in the design of the front.

For drivetrain efficiency, Capstone microturbines only have an efficiency of about 30%. The advantages of open-cycle turbines are mechanical reliability and power density, not efficiency. Until someone figures out how to mass produce tiny combined-cycle systems, turbines will lag reciprocating engines in efficiency.

Absolutely right. Gas turbine engines do do approach the fuel efficiency of Diesels until they are scaled up to many megawatts and operated at high load. They still are sexy and sound really futuristic.

I wonder why there are no reports of research on 100-400kW automotive combined cycle (gas and steam) turbine engines.


Probably because even large power plants can’t get near $0.10/kW for combined cycle, let far alone 100kW micro units. Automotive power plants need to be low cost per kW first and foremost, because they’re low duty cycle. 15k miles a year means only ~5MWh/yr mechanical energy production. Even for a tiny 50kW engine, that’s a capacity factor of only 1%.

Microturbines may be useful for range extenders if the cost can come way, way down, because efficiency isn’t so important, but the ICE is so many orders of magnitude ahead in economy of scale that I think they have zero future there.

I wonder if they plan on lining the top of the trailer with solar panels…

I had the same thought. I mean, there is quite a lot of area up there. It might improve the fuel economy by 10%.

I was thinking more along the lines of refrigeration trailers. Growing up we lived behind a grocery store. During the holidays they had TWO semi trailers parked behind the store full of meat, turkey, dairy, etc, and they both had their own generators to run the cooling units. they ran 24/7 for three months.

Since they are going to run 2,000 forklifts using fuel cells, I would imagine Walmart are very interested in using them for refrigeration along the lines of this project:

‘Plug Power will work with Carrier Transicold and Air Products to equip trucks making deliveries for a Sysco Corp. food distribution facility on Long Island. The trucks will be equipped with Plug Power’s GenDrive fuel cell product.

Both the Sysco and the H-E-B facilities already use forklifts powered by hydrogen fuel cells, part of a trend fostered by DOE to increase the use of the technology in industry. At both companies, the infrastructure to provide hydrogen for the fuel cells is already in place; the hydrogen is generated on site from natural gas and water using Nuvera’s PowerTap hydrogen generator and refueling system.’

Of course, that does not mean that solar can’t be used as and when it is available too.
Spoilage can’t be risked though, for days when it hot but there is cloud cover, and in hot, humid nights.

I should have added that for solar thin film technology etc is needed, as weight is important in any transport application as it decreases payload and increases fuel costs.

No. Of course not. For so, so many reasons.

-These vehicles don’t have electric drive motors to use the electric energy, so it could only be used for accessories or refrigeration.

-The cost payback would be many years and wouldn’t make financial sense.

-Semi containers are designed to be stacked.

And 10% fuel savings? Seriously?

A semi gets around 6mpg. If a semi is driven 60mph, that’s 10 gallons per hour.

If you covered most of the area of the top of a semi container with solar panels, you’d be looking at a peak power rating of ~4-5kw. A 5kw-rated system would produce, on average, less than 1kw (taking into account all hours of the day). So, let’s be generous and say it’ll average 1kwh per hour.
In a typical plug-in hybrid EV, 1kwh of electric energy would only offset ~ 0.1 gallons.

So even if you had a way to utilize all of the solar generated electric energy (which you wouldn’t), AND you assume that there won’t be any negative impacts on efficiency from the weight and aerodynamic drag from the panels (of which there would be some), you’d only reduce fuel consumption by ~1%.

I dub it the Bulette (Land Shark).

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Howsabout putting motors in the trailer, and having additional off-the-line torque, regenerative braking, and reduction in jackknifing? (and refrigeration)

Adding complexity to trailers that get swapped around all over the place might be a big challenge, but i suppose if anyone could do it, it would be somebody like Wallmart with a huge fleet and opportunities for standardization across both trucks and trailers.

Interesting possibility…

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Or the trailers could accept ISO containers for intermodal.

Cool truck. Love the aero advances and totally agree with David on: “Why does it take so long”.

Not sure about the turbine though. They were my specialty at AiResearch (now Honeywell). In general the Capstone turbine has higher fuel consumption and higher price than the Diesel………but hey, if they can make it work, more power to them. One must admit that it adds to the mystique.

I never thought there was much point in electrifying powertrains for vehicles that largely spend most of their time cruising on the highway. But I suppose a series hybrid with a turbine could gain a lot in terms of the efficiency in the first and last few miles as these things pull into population areas with more stop and go traffic. Allowing them to plug in while loading/offloading would allow those miles to be done without the turbine running. I think most of the benefit of this type of arrangement would be in terms of urban air quality (as opposed to overall GHG savings). Hopefully that turbine gets swapped out for a hydrogen fuel cell somewhere down the line for 100% zero emissions operation.

Another big benefit might be in terms of happier drivers! These guys spend half their time rowing through 12+ gears. That’s gotta be insanely tiring, especially in stop and go traffic. Replace that with an electric motor with maybe a 4 or 6 speed transmission, and you’ve got a much happier driver!

To me, the big thing would be the electric drive. Train locomotives have been driven by electric motors ever since the first electrics and diesels were developed a full century ago. They are a fixed gear ratio, too, for obvious reasons (durability, reliability, etc.).

Even with limited battery packs, big rigs should have been series hybrids for at least a decade now.

Some good news is that there are places, such as some airports and some shipping depots, that use battery electric trucks for moving trailers around, etc. – heavy-duty vehicles that, for the most part, do not go on the open road.

The other huge advantage would be heavy-duty battery packs to handle the regenerative braking – that’s a lot of energy being recovered! No need to downshift or use the noisy “jake brakes”.

The battery packs would then also provide additional juice for acceleration and mountain-climbing.

Experimental diesel train locomotives by GE have shown that battery packs help the trains operate more efficiently at high altitudes by providing additional power that the diesel engine can’t produce due to reduced oxygen levels.

Don’t forget that California now has some pretty strict anti-idling laws. Not rules or guidelines… laws. To have any AC in your cabin while you sleep, you thus either need to be plugged in to grid power, or…. have a large battery. Do not underestimate this issue for a segment of our transport community who literally lives in their vehicles.

I think the LA port authority also has some significant new clean air regulations that have all the current truckers up in arms.

So while the electric may help with urban driving as people are mentioning, I think much of the drive for this is to comply with California regulations.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Don’t forget shore power, a lot easier (and cheaper) to do with a plugin truck even if that power is rarely accessed on the highway.

Also, with appropriate gearing (2 electric motors for the rear axles, with different final drives), you don’t need a transmission. A 500kW turbine should be able to run at a fixed rate pretty efficiently, without being physically connected to the drivetrain, and reclamation of waste heat would make it even moreso.

What is ‘shore power?’

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

“Shore power, as it relates to the trucking industry, is commonly referred to as “Truck Stop Electrification” (TSE). The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that trucks plugging in versus idling on diesel fuel could save as much as 3240 US$ annually.[2] There are currently 138 truck stops[3] in the USA that offer on-board systems (also called Shore power) or off-board systems (also called single system electrification) for an hourly fee. Auxiliary power units offer another alternative to both idling and shore power for trucks.”

Could you imagine if every truck had a J1772 connector for plugging in for shore power when the driver is on their 10 hour break? Quiet AC and heat without the exhaust, power for their appliances (TV, fridge, computer, etc) and such to benefit drivers. As an added benefit – we would have tons of EV Charging stations across the country, none any further away than you nearest Pilot, Loves, or TA Travel Center truck stop! We would have infrastructure galore in a hurry if we were to get Freightliner, Mack, Daimler, and a couple of the others to adopt J1772. There was a company a few years ago – Idle-Air – that provided some sort of hookup for power, but never got a real solid foundation and struggled to make it – not even sure if they are still around.

Idling the engine of a semi tractor burns through a little over a gallon of diesel per hour, about $4/hour, replace that with 6 KW J1772 which should be more than adequate to provide all the necessary comfort for a driver in the Sleeper.

(Comments from an EV owner whom works for a large Trucking Company.)

Idle-Air is still around in some states. The problem is the cost and were not always parked for 10 hours, sometimes you could be on a lay-over for a weekend. Idle-Are doesn’t charge for usage they charge you by the hour for as long as your signed in to the system. So, when you first sign in you may run a total 3 hours of heat or air conditioning over a 10 hour period but you pay for the 10 hours that your signed into the system. So at $4.00 and hour that’s $40.00. Now look at a layover from 1800 Friday night to 0600 Monday morning that’s 60 hours @ $4.00= $240.00 for a weekend of parking. Now, I realize that a driver could sign in and out as required every few hours to keep the cost down but that is a real pain you know where, not to mention you supposed be on a 10 hour rest period so if you’re up every few hours signing in and out of Idle-Are what rest do you get. Now lets look at the money side, most of these drivers have no extra cash for Idle-Air even though it’s tax deductible… Read more »
Now lets look at the some other things. The newer trucks burn about a half gallon an hour to idle this is true for any truck from 2000 forward now contrary to popular belief that an APU burns about one tenth of a gallon an hour is just fiction an APU under an average load burns on average about 1/3 of a gallon of fuel so you have to ask your self is this enough of a difference for me to spend 10 grand on a APU and the answer is no. Then the next question if my truck gets on average gets 6 miles to the gallon and a new truck gets 7.5 miles to the gallon is this enough difference to justify buying a new truck at a cost of $140,000.00, answer NO not even close. Now I could go on and on but to that end, until the Federal Government stops listening to the special interest groups and the people who have something to sell instead of the drivers things will never change. When we talk about GHG the truck get the blame and why. Trucks provide a service that your very existence depends on, trucks bring… Read more »

A potentially important point re micro-turbines: they can be tuned to burn anything from gas to diesel to NG to SVO to hydrogen, etc. While I am not a fan of fracking, NG is cleaner than diesel. Then again, micro-turbines top out at about 30% efficiency, while diesels top out at about 40% efficiency.

Is this truck made in China? I was told Walmart only buys Chinese stuff

I’m concerned with the lightweight trailer. Crosswinds are a major problem with empty fiberglass trailers. An empty carbon fiber trailer could be a nightmare. There’s only so much you can do about crosswinds, though. I, for one, welcome our cool looking big-rig vehicles.

Anybody reminded of the “Big Bus” movie from the 70’s?

How about golfball like dimples all over the cab and trailers?
On Mythbusters, they got a 10% reduction in gas consumption on a car.
would not want dimples on my Volt but i don’t think a truck cab and trailer would be a problem if it gives you 10% better efficiency.
Just sayin’…

This is pretty cool. I wonder if it will actually come to market?

Seems to me one of the biggest hurdles is that the driver seat isn’t on the left hand side. I’m sure there’s federal requirements that make that difficult to allow.

Michael Kevin McCleary

I wish they would have considered the driver more, as a slightly reclined standing steering position might help eliminate back problems associated with sitting for long periods.

I am flattered that wal mart would steal my patented truck design along with my patented hybrid powertrain. I wind tunnel tested this design, which I invented, in 1988 and it had the same drag co-efficient as a corvette.