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Walmart Unveils Turbine-Powered WAVE Concept Truck

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the corpone-brotch-approved dept.

Transportation 242

cartechboy writes "It's no secret that semi trucks use a lot of fuel. Moving that amount of mass along at highway speeds takes a lot of power. But Walmart might have just unveiled the semi truck of the future with its WAVE concept truck. This crazy looking semi features an aerodynamic cab and looks like no other truck on the road. The driver sits in the center of the cab and the steering wheel is flanked by LCD screens instead of conventional gauges. The WAVE concept is powered by a range-extended electric powertrain consisting of a Capstone micro-turbine and an electric motor. To reduce weight the entire truck including the trailer is made of carbon fiber. The 53-foot side panels on the trailer are said to be the first single pieces of carbon fiber that large ever produced. The result? A trailer that weighs around 4,000 pounds less than a conventional one. While Walmart says it has no plans to produce the WAVE concept, one has to wonder if this is a look at what semis of the future will be like."

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Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (4, Insightful)

sotweed (118223) | about 6 months ago | (#46391899)

I don't understand how trucks, which require much more fuel, and more driver time per load, have
so thoroughly replaced railroads for long hauls. Making trucks more efficient is a fine idea, but
it's only nibbling at the edges. Why not go back to trains for medium to long distances?

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46391949)

Teamsters Union

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (5, Insightful)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | about 6 months ago | (#46392019)

Railroads have to pay to maintain their tracks based on the wear their cargo trains do to them. Trucks, on the other hand, have the costs of maintaining the road spread onto passenger cars in a way that results in the trucks paying far less than their share of the costs. This results in billions of dollars per year effectively subsidizing truck transport.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (5, Informative)

Ichijo (607641) | about 6 months ago | (#46392085)

That's true, and here [jsonline.com] is proof.

Today, over-the-road heavy trucks pay approximately $14,000 per year in combined fuel and other highway taxes. This amount does not come close to paying for the damage to roads and bridges caused by trucks...one 80,000-pound truck does the same road damage as 9,600 automobiles...

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (4, Informative)

SethJohnson (112166) | about 6 months ago | (#46392207)

I'm no friend of trucks, but I wanted to clarify that 80,000 is the typical maximum weight allowed for a semi-truck. That would more likely be a shorter-haul truck moving gravel or other materials instead of less dense cargo like Walmart products. For the long-haul, materials are transported by train.

While these road taxes are an interesting dimension, the main reasons Walmart's products are shipped via truck is because they don't want their own restocking schedules limited by train schedules. If efficiency were to dictate their logistics, the large Walmart regional warehouses would be located on a rail line and trucks would distribute the short haul from the regional warehouse to each store. Oh, well.

To reiterate, rail line maintenance expenses are not pushing Walmart cargo onto trucks. If those fees were so high, low-margin materials like gravel and sand would be in trucks and not hauled via train across multiple states.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392387)

this is patently untrue. truck weight limits are per axle and spacing, for example a piledriver truck with a twin-steer tri-drive 5-Axle, can weight 49500 kg.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46393329)

There are many different weight restrictions, but in general the weight limit on the vast majority of trucks in the United States is 80,000 pounds. 12,000 on the steering axle, 34,000 on the drive axles, and 34,000 on the trailer axles.

Construction equipment I'm sure falls into the special permit category where they all have unique rules. Trucks that have split axles on the trailer (the axles are not right next to each other but a few feet apart) usually can run 20,000 pounds per axle. This gives them some leeway when it comes to trying to balance loads.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (4, Informative)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 6 months ago | (#46392409)

I'm no friend of trucks, but I wanted to clarify that 80,000 is the typical maximum weight allowed for a semi-truck. That would more likely be a shorter-haul truck moving gravel or other materials instead of less dense cargo like Walmart products. For the long-haul, materials are transported by train.

It depends on the load being hauled but you would be surprised how heavy freight can get, even Walmart freight. A load of breakfast cereal or mattresses might be light but books, liquids and other bulky items like potting soil are not. So ensuring their trucks can gross out as close to 80k as they can get gives them flexibility.

80,000 is the federal weight limit for interstate highways. Most jurisdictions stick to that number for their limit but there are many that allow more with, and sometimes without, permits. In certain parts you can apply for overweight permits to carry more than the 80k. For example in NY you can apply for an overweight permit for dump trucks with 7 axles (semi trailer type) to carry 117,000 pounds/53070kg. Tankers can also go upward of 100,000 or perhaps more using more axles but not in NYC. I know a retired truck driver who hauled intermodal containers to/from the NY and NJ ports and he frequently ran into containers that weighed more than the container was rated for. One container had him hitting the scales at 90,000 pounds, 10,000 over the legal limit.

And I can assure you that while 80,000 pounds sounds like a lot it really isn't compared to vocational and heavy haul. Back in the day there was a concrete company in NY called Certified Concrete. They had custom built Mack F900's who's giant tandem rear axles alone carried 80,000 pounds. then throw on the 23,000 pound front axle and you had 103,000 lbs gross vehicle weight on just THREE axles. If you lived in NYC around the 70's you would remember these polkadotted monsters. Heavy haul can go nuts but typically lowboy's rated 50+ tons are not uncommon for moving large machinery.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 6 months ago | (#46392221)

Then they should increase the highway taxes for heavy trucks by 96., 960 or 9600, not sure of the ratio but it should reflect the actual damages vs a regular car or truck.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (4, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | about 6 months ago | (#46392459)

While true, trucks also allow point delivery to a specific business, instead of to a railyard. Basically, the bigger trade routes (e.g. between New York and and Chicago) should be serviced by rail, with trucks picking up the products from the local railyard to deliver it to the final destination. Most of the engineering work to make this happen has already been done - truck-sized containers are loaded onto cargo ships for overseas transport.

The overhead of loading/unloading each container (not the contents) does cause some counter-intuitive results. e.g. Driving the container entirely by truck from Las Vegas to Los Angeles may be more cost-effective than loading everything on a train car, then unloading. But at longer distances, the lower cost of rail will override the extra cost of loading/unloading (as long as the trucks aren't being subsidized by automobile fuel taxes).

As for why we don't just switch to rail immediately, unfortunately the creation of the Interstate Highway System and its uneven fuel taxes led to the creation of a multi-hundred billion dollar trucking industry. You cannot simply correct the fuel taxes. Doing so would put millions of truckers out of work and render several trillion dollars of their infrastructure obsolete overnight. Any change needs to be done slowly and gradually, to give the truckers time to recoup their investment in equipment, and time to retrain for a different job.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (3, Interesting)

Above (100351) | about 6 months ago | (#46392549)

It's actually worse than that, and only begins to look at the problem.

Railroads own their own right of way, which means property, which means they pay property tax! They are also required by mandate to upgrade to any new safety standards the government dictates.

Neither apply to roads. The government owns the land the roads are built on, and exempts itself from tax. If a road safety standard is updated, existing roads are grandfathered in until they next time they are rebuilt.

Add in the fact that state and local government subsidize roads out of general tax revenue coffers, and use tax-free government bonds to finance them and railroads are at a significant financial disadvantage in the US. That's why they can only compete on large volume, bulk commodities. Want millions of tons of coal for a power plant? Well, even though they have to eat all those costs it's more efficient. Want to stock a Walmart? The cost of the spur to it would never be made back.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (2)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 6 months ago | (#46392597)

I have a railroad track running across my land. I own the land on both sides of the track. The railroad doesn't own the property, and I pay the property tax on the land. And my situation is normal, not some weird glitch.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392025)

It is analogous to the last mile on fiberoptic networks. Once the West was centralized around railroads but it has since filled out and the railroad arteries have limited reach.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (2)

lgw (121541) | about 6 months ago | (#46392033)

Trains are still used for long haul of bulk freight. The raw materials for manufacturing generally move from production to consumption over rail (when it's across land), as that's a fairly small network compared to distribution of manufactured goods. In terms of tons of freight moved, rail is still important.

What's curious is the low use of rail from manufacturing to distribution hubs. It is used some, and most of the FedEx/UPs/etc hubs that's I've been to are on rail spurs, but you'd think there'd be more rail used there, or for cross shipping between Amazon distribution centers, or in general "rail to distribution hub" use.

There's plenty of rail right-of-way into and around most big cities, even if the tracks aren't used much: the hard problem was getting the contiguous path to someplace interesting.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392069)

Because I demand only the best in free range goods!

Railroads don't go everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392091)

Trucks are point to point. If you need it from point a to point b in 24 hours you're going to need a truck

Overhead Power - (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392153)

Trains on their own can't solve the last-mile problems that trucks do solve. On the other hand, we've had more than a century of experience with overhead power, which can be made safe, efficient, and inexpensive with today's technology. This has been applied to buses numerous times. It absolutely can be applied to trucks and made very safe through switching systems. (Only supplying power to a segment of the line when a vehicle is on it, shutting down immediately when a short or mechanical failure is detected, and so forth.) Obviously there are design challenges: The truck has to be able to change lanes, and attach and detach from the overhead freely. Those challenges are anything but insurmountable and could enable trucks and buses that, once attached to the overhead, never need to stop to refuel. They only travel with their own energy supply (whether it's an ICE or a battery) when they're not on the highway where the lines are available, eliminating the need for depot facilities and maintaining the flexibility that trucks and buses provide.

That's still a half-way solution. Ultra-light rail using mass produced, modular infrastructure would be ideal and could probably use the same rights of way that highways occupy. The same category of vehicle described above could also be used, and put into its own isolated (and probably elevated) 'lane' where it drives on autopilot and entirely with overhead power until it reaches an exit and gets back on the road. (An extra set of wheels attached to existing axles, made to mount a rail, would be needed.) We already know that modern rail systems require far less maintenance than asphalt roads and we also know that trucks are a massive safety hazard on the highway. This road-to-rail approach would solve those problems along with electrifying the long highway stretches of truck shipping and passenger busing.

Good luck funding that, though.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 6 months ago | (#46392213)

I think you might be underestimating how much freight travels by train, as well as not considering a logistical issue. I live in Kansas City, which is about dead center in the middle of the united states. As a consequence, a whole hell of a lot passes through here. We are a main artery for cargo carrying trains and I can't even begin to imagine how much passes through here everyday by train. You must also consider that due to the enormous amount of cargo a single train can carry, they are carrying goods and other cargo for many companies. The train cannot deliver specific goods to any given company directly, as a consequence, they must be unloaded in general areas and then loaded onto trucks for the last mile, which could easily be a hundred or more miles anyway.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (2, Insightful)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 6 months ago | (#46392237)

Because in the end a truck still needs to get the freight to and from the train. There aren't enough rail terminals to be feasible for this to work. You have the problem of rail yard congestion as trucks line up and wait for hours to pick up their trailer or freight.

It sounds nice in theory but in the end its much simpler and economical to move smaller non bulk loads via truck.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392609)

To play devils advocate here, how do you account for the bottleneck at ports where trucks line up and wait to pick up their freight?

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 6 months ago | (#46393289)

They use Trains as well as trucks at many ports, friend.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 6 months ago | (#46392245)

I don't understand how trucks, which require much more fuel, and more driver time per load, have
so thoroughly replaced railroads for long hauls. Making trucks more efficient is a fine idea, but
it's only nibbling at the edges. Why not go back to trains for medium to long distances?

Rail trails. Most of the track miles in the USA has been consigned to rail trails or built over. I travel quite a lot and can spot old rail grades, despite lack of ties and rails, frequently across the landscape. It would astound some people to see just how much rail there once was in this country. Some was pulled up and removed for good reason, because the demand didn't exist to sustain it. Others were retired because so much dependence upon the flexibility of trucking. Intermodal freight still makes good economic sense, containers moved by flat cars enmasse, but sometimes it just doesn't make any sense at all to have thousands of trucks on the road when the contents could be moved much more cost effectively by rail, even light rail.

American commerce is addicted to trucking, even long-haul, such as L.A. to Denver, Denver to Columbus, Columbus to Orlando, etc. I once worked in the freight and logistics industry and the one thing trucks do have is flexibility. They can run short spokes more effectively than rail, but it's hard to beat rail for long haul. Customers are used to footing the expense of the inefficiency of moving one or two trailers hundreds of miles, where rail could have done for much less cost. Some day, when petroleum is no longer cheap we'll wish we still had rails everywhere.

On the truck side, I'd applaud these WAVE trucks as I hate getting stuck behind stinky diesels, which give me splitting headaches from their pungent exhaust.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 6 months ago | (#46392425)

They abandoned those rights of way decades before they were re-purposed into trails.

IIRC they put a tax on rail miles in the early 20th century. Lost about half the track in the nation after that.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 6 months ago | (#46392625)

There need to be more "smaller" rail engines for short runs. In the "old days" there'd be local, regional, and long-haul rain networks. You'd use rail to get from on side of town to the other, or to the central depot for outside. Then link into a train for a longer haul, next city over or so. And split the car back out for local delivery.

The trucking lobby is strong, and conveinced everyone that this is no longer possible. But it still is. If trucks were taxed in a manner that they paid their own way, rail would make a comeback. When rail is strong, passenger rail does better. And rail is more efficient.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 6 months ago | (#46392351)

I don't understand how trucks, which require much more fuel, and more driver time per load, have so thoroughly replaced railroads for long hauls. Making trucks more efficient is a fine idea, but it's only nibbling at the edges. Why not go back to trains for medium to long distances?

Interstate Highways.... Convenience... Just in Time inventory management... Unions...

All played a role in the near death of RR, which is seeing a resurgence of inter-modal container shipping and driving trucks back to local delivery. Now with fuel starting to be a significant cost factor in shipping, RR are taking back market share.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392705)

Near death of the RR in the US? You are misinformed. We are no where near the death of RR. Just no RR to every city and one to every company warehouse that makes widgets.

If rail made sense to a companies bottom line, they would use it. Just as they now use one or more of a truck, rail, airplane, their own car or delivery van or a specific service like UPS, FedEX, US Mail. Because it makes the most economic sense to them for what they are doing. If I in NY buy a car engine from a company in LA, using rail is not the easiest way for me or for them to ship it. If that same place made 10K engines a month and was shipping them to KY and SC for an auto factory, it might make sense to use rail.
Is that concept really that hard for people to understand?

sotweed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392353)

Because you shipped it Priority... Besides "Ain't nobody got time for that."

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

alen (225700) | about 6 months ago | (#46392455)

a lot of trucks travel most of their journey by rail and only the last leg by truck. lots of freight rail that transports the trailer part of the truck that is then married with it's driver at a rail head

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 6 months ago | (#46393081)

I don't understand how trucks, which require much more fuel, and more driver time per load, have so thoroughly replaced railroads for long hauls. Making trucks more efficient is a fine idea, but it's only nibbling at the edges. Why not go back to trains for medium to long distances?

Same reason that cars win over public transit. You can be a heck of a lot more flexible with your routes with a truck than with a train.

Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46393287)

In the case of many retailers the goods to the stores leave from a distribution center which serve a subsection of the country. The loads and routes are calculated to be as efficient as possible and they spider web out from each distribution center. The goods are delivered by the manufacturers to the dc by whatever means necessary be it train, plane or van. This truck would not be used so much for cross country hauls as for hauls from DC to stores then potentially to intersecting DC or freight pickup for returns.

BREAKING: Canada attacks Russia (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46391915)

(AP) Citing the ongoing Russian occupation of the Crimea, Canadian armed forces today launched a full-scale invastion of Russia via the Bering Sea. Canadian forces were granted overflight permission by the USA to cross over Alaskan airspace, and Canadian troop transport ships and amphibious vehicles were steaming rapidly towards Russian seaports in the Arctic Ocean.
It is assumed that the timing of the Candian invasion has been timed to coincide roughly with the Russian springtime, to avoid being bogged down in a wintertime ground war. Their primary targets are rumored to be vodka distilleries, with the intent of rendering the Russian military ineffective due to severe alcohol withdrawal.

Re:BREAKING: Canada attacks Russia (2, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 6 months ago | (#46392233)

Do you know why I know this news is fake? You spoke of Canadian troop transport ships and amphibious vehicles in the plural form.

only $4 million for 6% weight reduction (-1, Troll)

raymorris (2726007) | about 6 months ago | (#46391937)

Wow that CF reduced the average weight of loaded truck by 6%, which increases highway fuel economy by 1%. Only $4 million worth of carbon fiber and it'll save several gallons of fuel per year.

Re:only $4 million for 6% weight reduction (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392129)

And then add the aero changes, which also reduces fuel consumption. Now..... you do realise a truck uses 50 litres of fuel per 100 kms, yes? And a truck usually can do 500,000 kms a year? Even 1% is 2500 litres. Across a fleet like Walmart? Seriously adds up per year. I suspect however the concept has a bigger number than 1% total fuel savings. Good aero on a truck can save up to 10% and that's 25,000 litres.

And if you think it'll cost 4 million in CF IF it comes about, you really have no concept of return of efficency in production.

Oh, and the service life of a truck and trailer are 10 - 15 years at least. The lifetime saving do indeed overcoem the initial cost.

Re:only $4 million for 6% weight reduction (-1, Flamebait)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 6 months ago | (#46392439)

Your bad at math aren't you?

Re:only $4 million for 6% weight reduction (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392583)

Your bad at math aren't you?

Math kettle, meet the spelling pot. There is also a grammatical ladle missing somewhere....

Re:only $4 million for 6% weight reduction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392651)

You're not great at language apparently, so it probably balances out.

Re:only $4 million for 6% weight reduction (1)

relisher (2955441) | about 6 months ago | (#46392331)

Ridiculous considering that trucks have be redesigned to be 30% more fuel efficient for a much lower price... http://i416.photobucket.com/al... [photobucket.com]

That's Great, But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46391943)

the carbon-fiber trailer is around 4,000 pounds lighter than a conventional one, allowing a truck to carry more freight

Being able to drop off trailers and pick up other ones is part of the point of the tractor-trailer concept. If the tractor is unable to pull a normal weight trailer, that's going to be an impediment to adaptation.

Re:That's Great, But... (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 6 months ago | (#46392255)

Walmart trucks will only carry walmart trailers. Do you think empty cans and bottles fly to the recycling centers by themselves?

Re:That's Great, But... (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 6 months ago | (#46392565)

Fine, but I doubt that trailer with it's extra bubble-thing on the front is going to fit very well on other trucks, or the train/boat it comes in on from overseas.

Re:That's Great, But... (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | about 6 months ago | (#46392661)

Not a problem: Walmart is big enough to build a warehouse/distribution center near the docks or railyard, so you only have to move it a short distance in conventional trucks. They also have to unload and reload anyways: Most of their trucks are likely to have a full shipment for a particular store, not a full shipment of a single item. This truck would be for their own last-mile problem, considering they have stores just about everywhere.

So, for them, it might be a money saver. It doesn't have to work for anyone else.

Re:That's Great, But... (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 6 months ago | (#46392653)

Empty cans fly into the container in my back yard. Then about twice a year I sell the aluminum to a metal dealer. I usually get from $30-50 for it. It baffles me that anybody is stupid enough to give that metal away to a 'recycling center' without getting paid for it.

Re:That's Great, But... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#46393165)

Some of us think that giving the $30 - $50 dollars a year to the service organization that organizes, collects and ships the stuff is a useful civic function. Not everyone is a naked capitalist.

Re:That's Great, But... (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 6 months ago | (#46393235)

Since soda cans can be returned for 5 cents each at the grocery stores, I'm guessing most people can't even gather enough aluminium in other forms to even pay for the trip to a metal dealer once a year.

It will have problems in the real world. (2)

willy_me (212994) | about 6 months ago | (#46391955)

Anything that light will have serious issues with cross-winds. If current trailers can blow over just imagine how bad it will be when you reduce the weight by 4000 lbs.

Some time ago, I recall reading on /. how Walmart was researching new energy efficient tires for use with trucks. Looks like they are being used here - a single large tire to replace the current standard dual-tire configuration. But this makes me wonder what the impact of a blow-out would be. Perhaps they have it figured out - or perhaps there are good reasons why this will never become a production machine.

Re:It will have problems in the real world. (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about 6 months ago | (#46391979)

The solution is to make sure they never drive around less than half empty. Make them combo delivery/refuse trucks.

Re:It will have problems in the real world. (5, Interesting)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 6 months ago | (#46392437)

I work in a small grocery store, and I assure you, even our delivery trucks don't go back empty. from our small store, at the very least, two bales of cardboard weighing about 500 lbs each go back on, along with dozens of bags of plastic for recycle, pallet size cooler boxes, along with a few stacks of pallets from the previous load. More than once I have seen the driver arrange the load so the all heavy stuff (the paper bales and pallets) where on the left side of the trailer, and the light stuff on the right. When I asked him about it, he told me that the forecast called for crosswinds to be from the left on the way home, and he was arranging the trailer to keep it from tipping. Decent truck drivers know all about wind, and how to compensate for it.

Re:It will have problems in the real world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392029)

Anything that light will have serious issues with cross-winds. If current trailers can blow over just imagine how bad it will be when you reduce the weight by 4000 lbs.

Unless the aerodynamics of the truck improve such that tractor is able to cut through the wind better.

Re:It will have problems in the real world. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392339)

Did you miss the Cross part of the Crosswind comment?

Unless the trailer is a hemisphere; there will be a wind direction that can tip it over.

And if the trailer is a hemisphere - well; you either have a traffic impediment, or a teeny tiny truck

Re:It will have problems in the real world. (1)

TheGavster (774657) | about 6 months ago | (#46392063)

I don't think the idea is to have the assembly weigh less, but for the overhead of the truck and trailer to be less. 4klbs less trailer means 4klbs more cargo.

The single tire trucks and trailers are on the road today, at least here in the northeast US. I haven't heard of any accidents caused by the tires, but advances in tire technology may make them less apt to blow out than semi tires years ago.

Some carriers go all-out and also install fairings under the trailer and around the trailer doors. Particularly the long under-trailer pieces could probably benefit from whatever manufacturing advances allowed them to produce the trailer side panels.

Re:It will have problems in the real world. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392979)

The fairings under the trailer aren't for aerodynamics, they're there to keep cyclists from getting run over the rear tires.

call the driver an independent contractor and get (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 6 months ago | (#46392097)

call the driver an independent contractor and get out any liability when things go wrong.

Walmart also in Silicon Valley (1)

hguorbray (967940) | about 6 months ago | (#46391969)

Interestingly, they actually have a LAB in Silicon Valley -I saw a Billboard advertising for talent (how quaint) at Central Expressway and Lawrence the other day...

http://www.walmartlabs.com/

-I'm just sayin'

Re:Walmart also in Silicon Valley (2)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 6 months ago | (#46392281)

If by "lab" you mean an acquired company that develops ONE SINGLE SOLITARY PRODUCT for use across various Walmart applications -- yeah, that's a lab. I interviewed there because they contacted me and the idea of working in an R&D capacity sounded intriguing (even if it was for Walmart), and the person I spoke to made it out like it was an R&D type of place with many internal projects and a "real startup culture". I was pretty pissed off to find out that no -- they just have one product there, will only have product in the foresee able future and as if that wasn't bad enough, that they were planning on relocating to Sunnyvale, because being out in Mountain View was too culturally diverse (my spin on that). What a waste of time, I really let the hiring manager have it when he circled back with the "good news" that they wanted to move forward.

Trailer strength (2)

compwizrd (166184) | about 6 months ago | (#46392009)

How will the trailer hold up to the average idiot with a forklift? Or to the average idiot that didn't strap the load in and it shifts?

Re:Trailer strength (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | about 6 months ago | (#46392067)

How will the trailer hold up to the average idiot with a forklift? Or to the average idiot that didn't strap the load in and it shifts?

Likely better than the aluminum used today.

Re:Trailer strength (4, Interesting)

Chas (5144) | about 6 months ago | (#46392093)

Aluminum siding vs idiot with a forklift. Forklift wins. Trailer is fucked up.
Plastic siding vs idiot with a forklift. Forklift wins. Trailer is fucked up.
Carbon fiber vs idiot with a forklift. Forklift wins. Trailer is fucked up AND costs 5x as much to repair...

Re:Trailer strength (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 6 months ago | (#46392635)

Oh please, the labour alone for carbon fibre repair (versus aluminum or even fibreglass) is going to be a lot more than 5x the price. Any idiot's nephew at a the local body shop can rivet a piece of aluminum over a forklift hole.

Luigi Colani (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392023)

Why does the name Luigi Colani [wikipedia.org] spring to mind?

Cool New Take on an Old Concept (1)

organgtool (966989) | about 6 months ago | (#46392037)

Luigi Colani has been working on improving the efficiency of trucks since the 1970s. His designs are eccentric [google.com] , but they are said to drastically reduce fuel consumption. What Walmart has done is incorporated the electric motor and switched to a carbon fiber trailer. While this would produce good results in theory, I have to imagine the practicality of getting batteries big enough to keep that truck running for hours uninterrupted would be a huge challenge and is why this truck is not going to be deployed any time soon.

Re:Cool New Take on an Old Concept (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392081)

I assume instead of batteries, it would be using the "Capstone MicroTurbine" mentioned in the article. That makes it more of turbine-electric, analogous to a diesel electric train.

Re:Cool New Take on an Old Concept (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392167)

Why does this vehicle need "batteries big enough to keep that truck running for hours uninterrupted"? It has an onboard turbine for electricity generation. Batteries are only needed to store excess production when idling and provide excess power back when demand requires it. Turbines are best when at a steady speed, batteries allow the turbine to stay at optimal speed/ energy output rather than constantly changing.

I know it is /. and one is not supposed to read the linked material, but have we descended to not even reading the summary? The 5th sentence says:"The WAVE concept is powered by a range-extended electric powertrain consisting of a Capstone micro-turbine and an electric motor."

Re:Cool New Take on an Old Concept (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 6 months ago | (#46392557)

As the AC said, this sounds like a turbine-electric motor, much like the diesel-electric commonly used in trains. If you look at the power to weight ratio for a train, it ends up being about equivalent to an SUV with a 5 hp engine. All the electric motor (and batteries) need to do is store enough power to quickly accelerate the truck. Once it's at highway speed, the turbine alone can provide sufficient power to keep it rolling; no batteries needed. (In the case of an electric train, no batteries are needed because you can take a long time getting up to speed. All the electric motor does is allow a single motor to span the huge range between slow high torque to fast speed without requiring a transmission as big as the locomotive.

Just a beta (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392109)

Nothing interesting to see here, move along.

drone drivers destroy delivery (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 6 months ago | (#46392119)

won't the self-driving trucks eliminate the need for ANY cab?

Re:drone drivers destroy delivery (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 6 months ago | (#46392719)

Self driving trucks still need a cab. That's where the engine goes.

The real savings in self-driving would be having them cruise at 35 mph. Much better economy at lower speeds, and no driver fatigue.

Re:drone drivers destroy delivery (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 months ago | (#46392867)

Awesome. Can't wait to get stuck behind one of those while another one passes it veeeeerrrrrryyy slowly.

Re:drone drivers destroy delivery (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 6 months ago | (#46393285)

If it ever happened, they'd not pass, but would tailgate each other for efficiency.

Re:drone drivers destroy delivery (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 6 months ago | (#46392721)

Even a robotic truck would benefit from a more aerodynamic front than what is in use today. With the current aero enhancements available for standard trailers all the low hanging fruit have been picked.

Single largest CFRP panels? (4, Funny)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 6 months ago | (#46392131)

Someone better tell Airbus that their 59ft panels on the A350XWB are somehow shorter than Wal-Marts 53ft panels...

Re:Single largest CFRP panels? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 months ago | (#46393197)

Airbus panels are in metric units, they don't count.

This is okay for Walmart-owned trucks I guess. (2)

Chas (5144) | about 6 months ago | (#46392139)

But for pretty much every other owner/operator out there, this sort of setup makes pretty much no sense. There's too many different types of loads (and specifically designed trailers) for that.

So there'll be a fleet of a few hundred Walmart trucks like this. And the other 99% of the industry will stick with standard trucks.

There's also the durability issue. While modern trucks aren't cheap, they're designed to be readily repairable. As are trailers.

Not many repair shops (let alone road services) have carbon fiber facilities.

These designs are great...until they get damaged. Then they cost an arm, a leg and a testicle to repair, compared to standard trailers.

Re:This is okay for Walmart-owned trucks I guess. (4, Informative)

LDAPMAN (930041) | about 6 months ago | (#46392689)

A few hundred? Walmart has 6500 trucks and 55,000 trailers..

http://corporate.walmart.com/o... [walmart.com]

Sort of looks familiar (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 6 months ago | (#46392247)

I know I have seen futuristic truck designs before. This was just the first one I saw on google. From 1964 I present the Ford Gas Turbine Truck [tonkagasturbine.com]

Or maybe the GM version (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 6 months ago | (#46392285)

From 1964 .. I present GM's Bison [hemmings.com]

Countless numbers (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 6 months ago | (#46392371)

You don't have to look far for streamliningL Streamline trucks [pinterest.com]

If they're not going into the truck building biz (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 6 months ago | (#46392313)

I know I am lending a lot to the ethics and morals of Walmart as a company when is say this, but if they are not going to be entering the truck building and selling business, they should patent-unencumber every last inch of their design, and publish every last schematic - Open Source it. It doesn't sound like they have anything to lose by doing so, and those few extra miles per gallon could add up to a sizable impact on air pollution if this and designs that followed from it became commonplace.

Re:If they're not going into the truck building bi (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | about 6 months ago | (#46392533)

I know I am lending a lot to the ethics and morals of Walmart as a company when is say this, but if they are not going to be entering the truck building and selling business, they should patent-unencumber every last inch of their design, and publish every last schematic - Open Source it. It doesn't sound like they have anything to lose by doing so

Competitive edge. If they can have their goods moved for a lower price than Target, Sears, Big Lots! etc., then Wal Mart can use that in a number of ways to beat the competition (even further); and all they'd have to do is only license out relevant patents and designs to those logistics companies willing to sign an exclusive agreement. Though commissioning truck builds and leasing those out would certainly also be an option.. just not one that would readily fit into Wal Mart's core business.

Re:If they're not going into the truck building bi (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 6 months ago | (#46392957)

Then they should make trucks rather than sitting on it.

The center? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392451)

I have a CDL and I don't think that's a good idea when we're used to the road from a left POV and nothing else for our entire lives. Soon as you start looking at the lines you're going to feel like you're about to run off the road. I'm always checking the bottom window on my passenger door to gauge where I'm at. "habit"

Re:The center? (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 months ago | (#46392909)

You get used to a different point of view pretty fast. As anyone who's ever driven in the UK or Australia can tell you. Or a motorcycle for that matter.

It took me almost a week to be able to signal routinely without first turning the wipers on though.

Re:The center? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46393041)

You get used to a different point of view pretty fast. As anyone who's ever driven in the UK or Australia can tell you. Or a motorcycle for that matter.

It took me almost a week to be able to signal routinely without first turning the wipers on though.

Funny you should mention that about the UK. You see more left-hand-drive lorries on the road here than right-hand-drive these days, at least on the major trunk motorways. They're all operating out of various European countries to save money on taxes, and filling up with fuel in France before catching ferries over to the UK to save on fuel tax!

The semi of the future (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46392461)

won't have a cab.
Why would you need one without a driver?

learn from the past (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392473)

iirc, about 30 years ago, Grumman, an aerospace contractor based on Long Island, NY, decided that they were so hi tech and skilled, that they could make a better bus for use by mass transit systems like NYC's MBTA.
So they built said bus, and NYC , or one of it's QUANGOS bought some for testing..
a few issues, like the hi tech weight saving aluminum axles cracked on NYC potholes.
iirc, Grumman decided that cost plus aerospace contracts were a better way to go

Not going to happen... (0)

bobbied (2522392) | about 6 months ago | (#46392483)

This truck is a cool concept, but it's NOT going to be build for a number of reasons.

First, it is not going to work with existing equipment. The trailer won't hook up to a standard tractor and the tractor won't pull a standard trailer. Who wants something that isn't compatible with existing stuff? Not me. I may get great mileage, but I got to wait at both ends of a load for the cargo to get loaded and unloaded. Time is money, lots of money.

Second, it is inefficient to go from fuel though a turbine, to electricity, to horsepower. The diesel, clutch, transmission route is more efficient. Turbines do NOT work well at varying output powers, they are simply LIGHT for the maximum power you get. But if you don't use 90% power nearly 100% of the time, they are real fuel hogs. Driving does not consume steady power, you get 3-4 min of 80-90% power, followed by an hour or to of 30% on straight and level. Not ideal for turbines.

Third, Inter-modal has better fuel efficiency anyway. and doesn't require major changes to anything. It's also more convenient when shipping in quantity..

Besides, what's really going to happen is we will slowly migrate towards more streamlined shapes for Tractor's and Trailers. But the BIG change will be to Natural Gas as fuel. That will make a difference in costs and pollution.

Re:Not going to happen... (2)

LDAPMAN (930041) | about 6 months ago | (#46392711)

"it is inefficient to go from fuel though a turbine, to electricity, to horsepower"....tell that to the trains that have been doing Diesel-electric and turbine-electric for decades. It's incredibly efficient.

Re:Not going to happen... (1)

raxx7 (205260) | about 6 months ago | (#46393113)

Yes, trains are diesel-electric.
However, it's not done for fuel efficiency; it's done for reliability.
Mechanical transmissions, like those used in cars and trucks, are too complicated and fragile at the levels of power and torque of a locomotive.
Even hydraulic transmissions are hard to get right at these power levels (pretty much only Voith managed to).

So, in the end, locomotives in general use diesel-electric. You do find a lot of diesel rail cars with hydraulic and even some mechanical.

In rail, specially on american freight rail, reliability trumps fuel efficiency by a long shot.
The diesel engines used in american freight locomotives are much less fuel efficient than most other industrial diesel engines of comparable power.
The operators would rather leave them running on idle for days than shutting them down on cold weather or fitting an APU.
They are, however, cheap to build, cheap to maintain and very reliable.,

meanwhile, back in the real world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46392505)

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1083123_how-to-make-a-semi-much-more-efficient-cummins-supertruck

This is cool! (1)

DaMattster (977781) | about 6 months ago | (#46392559)

Normally I'm a staunch railroad fan, but this thing is cool. Hell, if I got a chance to drive this thing I'd happily fill out an employment application at WalMart. This futuristic truck is pretty bad ass!

"looks like no other truck on the road" (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 6 months ago | (#46392643)

Maybe not exactly ... but for some reason it reminded me of the truck from Highwayman [hemmings.com] .

Re:"looks like no other truck on the road" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46393149)

My thought exactly. Circa 1987 for anyone who cares.

oops (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 6 months ago | (#46392765)

" the steering wheel is flanked by LCD screens instead of conventional gauge"
which won't work in the northern half of the US half the year. Even specialized GPS screens ghost and fail to turn on and are miscolored below 10F.

Re:oops (3, Funny)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 months ago | (#46392939)

Strange thing, drivers don't work so well when it's cold either. That's why truck cabs are generally heated when it's cold out.

I'm from a place where, before glow plugs, if you turned off your truck during the winter it wasn't starting again until June, so the drivers would just leave their trucks idling all night while they slept. If you were smart you'd shove some cardboard in front of the radiator on your car (or truck) to block the airflow so that you'd actually get warm air out of the heater, and avoid that driver/LCD screen freezing problem.

This is what environmentalists should be pushing (2)

Solandri (704621) | about 6 months ago | (#46392769)

Unfortunately, MPG is the inverse of fuel economy. That means the bigger you make MPG, the smaller the effect it has on overall consumption. If a car/truck is driven 15,000 miles per year, and you come up with a technology which improves their economy by (say) 20%:

5 MPG tractor trailer = 3000 gallons consumed, 20% improvement = 600 gallons saved
12 MPG luxury SUV = 1250 gallons consumed, 20% improvement = 250 gallons saved
18 MPG SUV = 833 gallons consumed, 20% improvement = 167 gallons saved
25 MPG sedan = 600 gallons consumed, 20% improvement = 120 gallons saved
35 MPG econobox = 429 gallons consumed, 20% improvement = 86 gallons saved
50 MPG hybrid = 300 gallons consumed, 20% improvement = 60 gallons saved
100 MPG supercar = 150 gallons consumed, 20% improvement = 30 gallons saved

All those 100 MPG research vehicles are pretty worthless in terms of reducing the country's overall oil consumption. Likewise, the push for hybrid cars is tackling the problem at the wrong end. It's improving fuel economy where it matters least - cars that don't burn a lot of fuel in a year. If you want to reduce oil consumption, you need to be changing the vehicles which burn the most oil. That's the trucks and SUVs - that's where we should be concentrating our fuel economy improvement research dollars.

Buying a Prius may help assuage your personal guilt over the environment, but we would've been much better off if Toyota et al had spent those R&D dollars on improving truck and SUV fuel efficiency first. The bigger the MPG, the smaller the impact it has on fuel savings - switching from a 12.5 MPG vehicle to a 25 MPG vehicle saves as much fuel as switching from a 25 MPG vehicle to an infinite MPG vehicle. (GPM is the "correct" metric because people usually have a certain distance they wish to drive, meaning the miles should be in the denominator. If people filled up their tank once a week and drove as many miles as they could on the one tank every week, then MPG would be the "correct" metric.)

this is not the future. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 6 months ago | (#46392841)

walmart will never invest in this because the truck of the future for them is the train. Long-haul tractor trailers are a dying breed perpetuated by cheap oil, and the future of regional and local trucking is in battery or hybrid power demonstrated by Staples and numerous other companies.

Re:this is not the future. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46393179)

How do you get your products from the freight train depot to your stores? Sherpas? Forklifts?

Overheard at the truck stop (1)

SpankiMonki (3493987) | about 6 months ago | (#46393027)

Trucker 1: "That thang looks like them French ticklers they sell in the john."

Trucker 2: "Where the hell'r you supposed to put a confederate flag on it?"

Trucker 3: "Betcha that truck has rear tire flaps with MALE silhouettes."

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