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Walmart showcases 'truck of the future'

Last updated on: April 10, 2014 16:37 IST

Walmart showcases 'truck of the future'

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Walmart showcased its futuristic truck at an auto show in the US. Called as the Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience, this huge vehicle is a tractor-trailer combination.

It is more aerodynamics and has sophisticated control systems.

The project aims Walmart’s commitment to improve the overall fuel efficiency of its fleet and lower the company’s carbon footprint.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
Photographs: Courtesy, Walmart.
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Although the prototype currently runs on diesel, the vehicle is fuel neutral, which means it can run on CNG or LPG, biofuels or other fuels.

The prototype is the result of collaboration between Walmart and its vendors, including Peterbilt, Roush Engineering, Great Dane Trailers and Capstone Turbine.

Almost every component on this vehicle is cutting edge and showcases innovations of the future that will drive increased efficiencies.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
Photographs: Courtesy, Walmart.

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Let’s take a look at the technology that went into making of the truck.

Tractor

Walmart and Peterbilt have collaborated on aerodynamic, hybrid, electrification and alternative fuel projects in the past, each with incremental gains in fuel efficiency and emission reductions.

The Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience tractor combines many of these projects in a single vehicle.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
Photographs: Courtesy, Walmart.

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Aerodynamics

Designers used extensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis to optimise the truck’s styling.

The truck’s shape represents a 20 per cent reduction in aerodynamic drag over Walmart’s current Peterbilt Model 386.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
Photographs: Courtesy, Walmart.

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Aerodynamics

By placing the cab over the engine, the truck’s wheelbase is greatly shortened, resulting in reduced weight and better manoeuvrability.

Walmart relied on product development supplier Roush Engineering to carry out the vehicle’s construction with these detailed design specifications.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
Photographs: Courtesy, Walmart.

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Walmart showcases 'truck of the future'

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Range Extending Series Hybrid

Range extending hybrids are a synergy between electric trucks and series hybrids, and their design reduces the energy storage size required for trucks to run on batteries alone.

With Walmart Distribution Centers now located closer to metropolitan areas, transport vehicles have shorter transit times to their delivery destinations.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
Photographs: Courtesy, Walmart.
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Range Extending Series Hybrid

These shorter trips reduce the vehicles’ average trip speed and create more opportunities to recover energy through regenerative braking.

The generator and energy storage on the truck are scalable based on the range desired.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
Photographs: Courtesy, Walmart.
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Walmart showcases 'truck of the future'

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Turbine Power

The truck features a micro-turbine Range Extender generator developed by Capstone Turbine Corporation.

The company also engineered the truck’s integrated hybrid drivetrain solution. The use of a hybrid powertrain allows the turbine to remain at optimum operating revolutions per minute (RPM), while the electric motor/energy storage handles acceleration and deceleration.

A longer-range version of this powertrain would feature a larger turbine and smaller energy storage system.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
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Fuel Neutral Capability

Turbines by their nature are fuel neutral and produce very low emissions without the need for after-treatment.

Turbines are also appealing because of their few moving parts, low maintenance requirements and lighter weight.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
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Walmart showcases 'truck of the future'

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Component Electrification

With automobiles moving to electrified accessories such as power steering and air conditioning, this truck scales those systems up for use on a larger vehicle.

These electrified components are used only when needed and at peak efficiency.

Charge Mode

When keyed on, the truck automatically detects the state of charge of the batteries and starts charging them, if needed, using the turbine engine. Charge mode can be manually selected if an operator wishes to “top off” the batteries prior to shutting down.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
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Electric Vehicle Mode

For use in urban areas, the truck will run on electric power alone until the battery state of charge hits 50 per cent. At that time the turbine will automatically start and begin charging the batteries.

Hybrid Electric Mode

For maximum range, this mode runs the turbine continuously, only shutting down if the batteries run out.

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Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
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Trailer

The vehicle’s trailer, manufactured by Great Dane Trailers, offers a host of fuel-saving features. The trailer body is built almost exclusively with carbon fiber, including one-piece carbon fibre panels for the roof and sidewalls, saving nearly 4,000 pounds when compared to traditional designs.

The trailer’s convex nose also enhances aerodynamics while maintaining storage space inside the trailer.

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Other special features of the trailer include special low-amperage LED lighting strips, composite trailer skirts, aerodynamic disc wheel coverings, a Posi-lift suspension, and a one-piece, fiberglass-reinforced floor panel with a 16,000 pound forklift rating.

“The Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience is a bold step in transportation technologies that, although not on the road in its current form, will serve as a learning platform for the future that will accelerate our progress toward our goals,” said Tracy Rosser, senior vice president of transportation at Walmart.


Image: Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience.
Photographs: Courtesy, Walmart.

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