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posted by LaminatorX on Thursday March 06 2014, @11:00AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Welcome-to-the-Rig-of-Tomorrow dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"Heavy-duty trucks spend more time on the road than passenger vehicles, so improving their fuel efficiency of 5 or 6 mpg can have a major effect on emissions--and their owners' bottom lines. Now Stephen Edelstein reports that Walmart has unveiled the Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience (WAVE), designed for optimum aerodynamic efficiency featuring a convex nose to reduce aerodynamic drag and constructed of carbon-fiber reducing its weight by 4,000 pounds allowing the truck to carry more freight without the need for increased power or fuel consumption. The design was achieved in part by placing the driver in the center of the cab (video). The steering wheel is flanked by LCD screens--in place of conventional gauges--and there is a sleeping compartment directly behind the driver's pod.

The WAVE is powered by a Capstone Turbine engine coupled to an electrical powertrain. Capstone Turbines is a California based gas turbine manufacturer that specializes in microturbine power along with heating and cooling cogeneration systems. Key to the Capstone design is its use of foil bearings, which provides maintenance and fluid-free operation for the lifetime of the turbine and reduces the system to a single moving part which also eliminates the need for any cooling or other secondary systems. With over 7000 trucks, Walmart's fleet of vehicles provides a large opportunity to increase fuel efficiency across the board and set an example for the rest of the big box stores. They'll also be necessary in the near future: President Barack Obama has directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to draft a new set of fuel-economy rules for medium and heavy-duty trucks."

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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by chromas on Thursday March 06 2014, @11:16AM

    by chromas (34) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 06 2014, @11:16AM (#11872) Journal

    maintenance and fluid-free operation for the lifetime of the turbine

    Being a Walmart truck, the lifetime will be about six months.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by FatPhil on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:24PM

      by FatPhil (863) <reversethis-{if.fdsa} {ta} {tnelyos-cp}> on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:24PM (#11902) Homepage
      Valid point, I was going to say exactly the same thing, but using more words.

      This is marketting speak. If they don't mention the number of years (or months) that implies they're actually embarrassed by it.
      --
      I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
  • (Score: 1) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @12:52PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @12:52PM (#11885)

    The article makes it clear Walmart has no plans to ever produce this, or get into trucking, so why build it? To grab patents? Prestige(??)? Or are they that bored they waste shareholder money doing go-nowhere side projects like so many other huge corps? A single occupant long-distance truck won't be popular, since many truckers take their signifcant others with them on many hauls.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by linsane on Thursday March 06 2014, @12:55PM

      by linsane (633) on Thursday March 06 2014, @12:55PM (#11888)

      This concept has been done before http://coolspotters.com/designers/luigi-colani/pho tos_videos/1256416 [coolspotters.com] but I don't see them on the roads (which I would expect if they brought corporations significant cost savings)

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by karmawhore on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:28PM

        by karmawhore (1635) on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:28PM (#11906)

        I don't imagine there would ever be "significant cost savings" if the trailer alone requires making one-piece 53' carbon fiber panels. This is about making it as fuel efficient as possible, then taking some of those ideas back into the realm of the practical.

        --
        =kw= lurkin' to please
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by linsane on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:57PM

          by linsane (633) on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:57PM (#11926)

          So for it to take off it needs carbon fibre structure costs to come out of the realms of aero and motorsport and into the mainstream. Simples!

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Sir Garlon on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:25PM

      by Sir Garlon (1264) on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:25PM (#11904)

      This truck is a research prototype. Walmart can get valuable data on how much fuel this truck saves, plus lots of operational considerations (how do drivers like it, is the lighter carbon-fiber trailer stable enough in windy conditions, etc.). This will tell them how much they'd be willing to invest to modernize their fleet, what ROI to expect, etc. It makes all kinds of sense, even if they are never planning to build the trucks themselves. If they decide to commit, they can have someone else manufacture it for them under license.

      It remains to be seen whether truck manufacturers will do parallel research. The very fact that Walmart is serious enough to build their own prototype may motivate them to step up their own R&D.

      --
      [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
      • (Score: 2) by jmoschner on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:37PM

        by jmoschner (3296) on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:37PM (#11992)

        Walmart is not into manufacturing. Even their Sam's and Great Value brands are made by other companies. Walmart would most likly sell or license any designs/patents to someone better suited to build trucks for them.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by EvilSS on Thursday March 06 2014, @04:01PM

        by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 06 2014, @04:01PM (#12006)

        The truck was built in partnership with Peterbilt, Great Dane Trailers, and Capstone Turbine, so Wal-Mart didn't exactly set out on their own with this.

  • (Score: 1) by ls671 on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:01PM

    by ls671 (891) on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:01PM (#11896) Homepage

    Looking at the picture, I wonder how this truck would stay together on bumpy roads. It looks more suited for a formula 1 race track.

    --
    Everything I write is lies, read between the lines.
  • (Score: 1) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:08PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:08PM (#11897)

    I thought diesel engines were more efficient, and cheaper, than turbines in the ~500 hp size. Sure, diesel engines are heavier, but for a truck, that doesn't matter much.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by tempest on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:49PM

    by tempest (3050) on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:49PM (#11921)

    I'm interested to know how they decided on camera placement for rear view. I'm assuming that's what the interior screens are for since there no way a truck can get away with the dinky small things sticking out where the mirrors normally are.

    Replacing the entire thing with carbon fiber to reduce weight seems like a good idea, although that's something trucks could be doing right now. It would certainly save fuel both on highway and in town. I'd think replacing everything would make it too rigid to survive roads, but I'm sure they've thought of that.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by bucc5062 on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:52PM

      by bucc5062 (699) on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:52PM (#11999)

      I doing some digging, I found this Wiki as it relates to rear view mirrors [ecomodder.com]

      In short it looks like even this vehicle has to have mirrors, not video, that allows the driver to see 200 ft behind the vehicle. If not then it would seem to be deemed illegal for the road. The pictures are not great for viewing the visibility, but since they took it out on the road I figure what the driver can see is good enough to pass muster.

      The LCD screens should be showing gauges, warnings, and gps (along with schedule information) and maybe a backup view function when in reverse.

      This rig reminds me of an old Sci Fi story (was it Heinlein I think) where a young man leaves home to seek fortune amongst the stars. He hitches a ride on a freight truck that in description is the future of this Walmart rig. Now I have to figure out where....

      --
      The more things change, the more they look the same
      • (Score: 3) by bucc5062 on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:58PM

        by bucc5062 (699) on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:58PM (#12004)

        Found it. It was Starman Jones [wikipedia.org] These were very enjoyable books to read a a kid and I think I need to revisit again to escape back to childhood for a short time.

        --
        The more things change, the more they look the same
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by caseih on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:36PM

      by caseih (2744) on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:36PM (#12066)

      Definitely rigidity is a problem. I also wonder how a carbon fiber frame and body would burn in a roll over. As well a carbon fiber truck that rolls over is definitely not going to be repairable.

      Many of the B train trailers around my area are now all aluminum construction, with only steel for the rails over the axles. They work fine, but eventually they do crack, and in some case they've split in half from fatigue. So you have to inspect them regularly. I think most of the newer box trailers are all aluminum too, even frame rails. While the manufacturers do take into account rigidity and reliability, it's all about tolerances. I'm sure older steel trailers were way overbuilt. Newer aren't as strong as older steel ones, but that's often fine. They are certainly adequate over an estimated lifespan, but they are also focused on average conditions. If your roads are bad (or gravel or dirt), expect problems with all-aluminum trailers, especially belly dump bulk trailers. As roads get worse and worse in north America, particularly the US because of gov't neglect and lack of funds, I expect more and more problems with cracking. But then we'll have bigger problems anyway.

      Saving weight is a big deal. It does reduce the fuel cost per kg of cargo. But don't expect trucks to get lighter overall when loaded (even walmart's truck). Making a truck lighter means more weight can be carried as cargo. Trucks always want to travel at close to 100% maximum legal weight to maximize productivity. Cargo companies charge by the kilo, so the more kilos per litre they can haul the better for their bottom line.

      I expect that cameras will become standard equipment on trucks in the near future, just like dashcams are becoming more and more ubiquitous. Increase safety and decrease liabilities.

      • (Score: 2) by TheLink on Friday March 07 2014, @11:14AM

        by TheLink (332) on Friday March 07 2014, @11:14AM (#12598) Journal

        As roads get worse and worse in north America, particularly the US because of gov't neglect and lack of funds

        Print more US dollars but instead of using it for bailouts and wars, use it to build and restore infrastructure and other stuff.

        To me that's the proper way of taking advantage of the US dollar being the world's reserve and trading currency assuming you are thinking of benefiting the USA as a whole.

        When US dollars are created it makes everyone else with net positive amounts of US dollars poorer- it is like an involuntary tax. This "tax" affects many US people BUT more importantly it includes the rest of the world who also hold or are owed dollars - like China, Japan etc. So even though the US citizens get poorer, if the created money is used productively in the USA, the US citizens will get their cut of the wealth one way or another, and tend to be wealthier compared to the rest of the world, compared to if the dollars weren't printed.

        It's like Mugabe (US Gov) in Zimbabwe (the world) printing Zimbabwe dollars and passing some of it to his cronies. The rest of Zimbabwe (the world) get poorer, but he and his cronies get their wealth.

        In the past this was fine for the USA when the US citizens were included amongst the cronies. This seems less true nowadays. I may be wrong of course.

        It's harder for governments of many other countries to do the same thing - when they print money in order to benefit the country they actually have to use it for projects/things with high enough return on investment. When nobody else holds your currency but your own people, you're transferring wealth from them. So your projects have to be worth it.

        But if you can transfer wealth from the rest of the world and pass it to your people, your projects don't have to that great, they just can't be crap.

    • (Score: 2) by SleazyRidr on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:44PM

      by SleazyRidr (882) on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:44PM (#12073)

      I'm not really convinced by the carbon-fibre. The truck itself isn't really the biggest component of the weight, so the savings are fairly minimal for a lot more cost.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by morgauxo on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:01PM

    by morgauxo (2082) on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:01PM (#11928)

    Each store gets two pieces of coal per winter instead of just one to keep the employee areas warm.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by wbslingr2001 on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:06PM

    by wbslingr2001 (1360) on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:06PM (#11932)

    Later this month, I will be attending a trade show that this tractor/trailer will be at.
    Being a design engineer in the trailer industry, I am looking forward to seeing what kind of techniques are used to put this thing together

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Barrabas on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:24PM

      by Barrabas (22) on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:24PM (#12061) Journal

      Would you consider taking pictures and writing up an article with your thoughts?

      That would turn SoylentNews into a primary news source (or sorts), our first one.

      I'm sure lots of people would like to hear more about the unit, and you could respond to questions in the commentary.

      If this is something you'd like to do, contact the editors:

      editors (at) SoylentNews (dot) org.

      • (Score: 1) by wbslingr2001 on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:57PM

        by wbslingr2001 (1360) on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:57PM (#12083)

        I would love to help out SN in any way that I can. I will be there taking lots of pictures anyway. Doing a quick article and answering some questions is the least I could do.
        Thanks for asking.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Techwolf on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:41PM

      by Techwolf (87) on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:41PM (#12111)

      What trade show is that? I hope its the one in Louisville, KY as I can attend that one. My home terminal is only an hour and half from there.

      This would give me a good reason to attend, as a soylent journalist. HA! I would never guess I would ever do that in my lifetime.

      I can easily contribute to the articial if there is one as I do photography. And I don't mean using a cell phone or tourist camera. :-)

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by wbslingr2001 on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:55PM

        by wbslingr2001 (1360) on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:55PM (#12126)

        As a matter of fact, It is the one in Louisville.

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by cmn32480 on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:55PM

    by cmn32480 (443) <{cmn32480} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:55PM (#12000) Journal

    A 3MPG gain is real money. Green in at least 2 senses of the word, saving $$ and probably better for the environment.

    Now start with the questions. What is the carbon foot print of the manufacturing of the different materials as opposed to steel? How easy is it to repair those massive trailer panels? Can they be repaired at all? I would wager that you can't just beat a dent out with a hammer.

    As a side question, what happens to carbon fiber in an accident? Does it shatter?

    And the real question, likely the only thing that will actually matter in the end, what do they cost, and where is the break even point based on the cost of the truck, fuel and routine maintenance vs the current trucks that are on the road?

    --
    "It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear" - Norm Peterson
    • (Score: 1) by cmn32480 on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:57PM

      by cmn32480 (443) <{cmn32480} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:57PM (#12001) Journal

      I knew there was another question.... stupid brain. I'm gonna stab you with a Q-Tip.

      And how much additional training does it take to get the driver comfortable driving form a center position instead of the left?

      --
      "It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear" - Norm Peterson
      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Techwolf on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:46PM

        by Techwolf (87) on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:46PM (#12119)

        Now this is going to be a problem when passing. Usually one can sneak out a couple feet and see the road ahead to see if it is safe to pass. With this center drive, one can't do that as that will cause a collision with oncoming traffic.