This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com
Walmart has a massive distribution operation -- hardly a surprise for the world's largest retailer -- and when you hear the numbers, it's astounding. The company's private fleet consists of around 6,500 tractors and 55,000 trailers and, every year, Walmart's team of drivers go 700 million miles to deliver goods from distribution centers to stores, roughly the distance from Earth to Saturn.
That's why even the smallest tweak to make the fleet more efficient can lead to major savings for the company.
Walmart's new semi-truck concept, the Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience (WAVE), could play a major role in improving the company's fleet efficiency in the future.
Walmart says it's already 80 percent of the way towards meeting their goal of doubling fleet efficiency by 2015, compared with 2005. In practical terms, that means the company has been able to deliver 658 million more cases while driving 298 million fewer miles.
According to Doug McMillon, Walmart's president & CEO, the semi-truck concept is 20 percent more aerodynamic than trucks in the current fleet and uses an electric motor and "micro-turbine hybrid powertrain" that runs on "diesel, natural gas, biodiesel and probably other fuels still to be developed."
Even more impressive is the trailer, which Walmart claims is the first to be made of carbon fiber -- two 53-foot panels, that helps reduce the weight of the trailer by about 4,000 pounds.
There's no mention of the truck's fuel economy, but we have to suspect that the lighter truck combined with the hybrid powertrain could mean significant savings. Though, as Triple Pundit points out, that's not exactly a high bar with semi-trucks generally averaging four to eight miles-per-gallon. Still, the concept should keep Walmart ahead of the curve as U.S. President Barack Obama announced last month that he plans to propose new fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks.
Still, as is the case with most concepts, don't expect to come across this on the interstate anytime soon.
"It may never make it to the road, but it will allow us to test new technologies and new approaches," said McMillon.
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