Video: Wal-Mart WAVE Hybrid Semi-Truck Promises Efficiency


Following on President Obama’s promise to enforce tougher truck fuel economy standards, Walmart has revealed their futuristic hybrid big rig, the WAVE concept. Using a micro-turbine hybrid setup and aerodynamics like you’ve never seen before, Walmart thinks this is what the future of trucking looks like.

Walmart is actually a leader in efficient trucking methods, going so far as to deploy a fleet of test vehicles utilizing hybrid drivetrains, among other improvements, to increase fuel economy. The average semi-truck sees between 5.5 and 6.5 MPG, and the goal is to get that number over 10 MPG. The cost savings per truck per 120,000 miles could be $25,000 or more, depending on diesel prices.

Now consider that Walmart has 6,500 big rigs in its fleet, and you can see why the low-price retailer has a vested interest in more-efficient vehicles.

With the WAVE Concept, Walmart has built a big rig made mostly out of carbon fiber, which saves a whopping 4,000 pounds per vehicle. Power comes from a Capstone microturbine engine coupled to a battery pack and a powerful electric motor. An ultra-aerodynamic design includes electric sliding doors and a seating arrangement that puts the driver in the center of the cab, in front of a fully-customizable LCD gauge cluster.

What good is an efficient truck if it’s hauling a trailer with the aerodynamics of a brick though? That’s why Walmart, which owns over 55,000 trailers, also commissioned the building of a full carbon fiber trailer.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • The trailer follows the aerodynamics of the truck though, so as long as the truck heads through the wind with better efficiency, the trailer will follow efficiently as well. Weight trade-offs don’t need to be made, really – weight has proven to only affect accelerating/stopping, and as long as these trucks are generally just staying in motion at their usual 55 MPH on the highway, having a standard trailer won’t put a dent in the truck’s efficiency.

    I just hope it’s wired to be plug-in capable!

    • Philip Zeller

      interesting point! thanks for pointing that out. the whole carbon fiber trailer concept felt like overkill to me. i mean, the trailer alone must cost $1m in materials and labor.

    • Blake Lehr

      I don’t think the lesser weight is for added mpg, rather the ability to utilize the lighter trailer to haul more goods. If you can carry more goods in one trip, you can make less trips, drastically cutting shippimg costs.

  • curly4

    Here one sees a private commercial company doing research for higher fuel mileage. This is the way it should be instead of being forced by government. When the companies find it is to their advantage to innovate they they will. The same for others who see a profit that can be made by saving other cost then the innovation to do so will be developed. Government may get things done but at a higher cost and not as efficiently.

    • We need to be more efficient – and it doesn’t matter who does it first, or why.

      We already know that trucks can get 14MPG with convention diesel drivetrain – just by having much lower aero drag. I hope we find out soon how well this truck does, with it’s electric drivetrain and gas turbine genset.

    • Madbunny

      Not really. Fuel efficiency in cars only ever goes up when the government implements new standards *OR* the public demands it, usually as a reflex to the private market fuel costs going up. The government on the other hand isn’t a business, it isn’t in the ‘business’ of making money. It’s in the business of spending it, and if that expense results in the improved success of the free market so much the better.

      it’s the governments job to implement infrastructure and develop systems that the rest of us, including the private market can use and improve upon. It’s only when we rely on the private market to do so that the country fails to move forward.

  • SinkTip

    The batteries on board are the AT6500 Lithium Polymer units from Corvus Energy.

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