What? A drag?

The tur­bine con­cept slips through the air with the great­est of ease

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Working Wheels - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@news.com.au

A NEW Peter­bilt truck has just landed from outer space.

The Wal­mart Ad­vanced Ve­hi­cle Ex­pe­ri­ence (WAVE) con­cept ve­hi­cle is a joint de­vel­op­ment by the re­tail gi­ant and the iconic truck brand.

Re­vealed at Wal­mart’s re­cent Global Sus­tain­abil­ity Meet­ing, the WAVE is a one­off, de­signed to ex­plore ways that trucks can make less of an im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

Wal­mart op­er­ates its own mas­sive fleet of 7000-odd trucks that haul cargo from sup­pli­ers to its 4800 stores in the US and cover mil­lions of kilo­ma­tres in the process.

Its goal is to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of the re­tailer’s lo­gis­tics net­work, de­liv­er­ing more cargo and driv­ing fewer kilo­ma­tress. Wal­mart is also aware that new tech­nol­ogy is needed to re­duce the fuel con­sump­tion and the emis­sions pro­duced by the semi trail­ers that move ev­ery­thing its sells.

That’s where the WAVE truck comes in.

“It may never make it to the road,” says Wal­mart CEO Doug McMil­lon, “but it will al­low us to test new tech­nolo­gies and new ap­proaches.”

The WAVE is not merely a flimsy pro­to­type based on a strik­ing de­sign made for a truck show. Among its fas­ci­nat­ing tech­nol­ogy there are a gas tur­bine gen­er­a­tor and elec­tric mo­tor as well as some stun­ning car­bon-fi­bre el­e­ments.

It fea­tures a spe­cial Great Dane trailer made al­most com­pletely from car­bon fi­bre, which is know for be­ing both strong and light.

The one-piece side trailer pan­els are 16.1 me­tres long and are thought to be the long­est sin­gle-piece flat car­bon-fi­bre sec­tions ever pro­duced.

By mak­ing the trailer box pri­mar­ily from car­bon fi­bre, the mak­ers have saved ap­prox­i­mately 1800kg in bulk.

The front of the trailer box is also rounded for the best pos­si­ble aero­dy­namic pro­file.

The WAVE cab comes straight from a sci­ence fic­tion movie, but there is a method to the mad­ness. It was de­signed to cut through the air with the least drag, Steer­ing clear of a tra­di­tional cab. As a re­sult the cab is shaped around a sin­gle driver’s seat, with a bench for pas­sen­gers be­hind that. There is also a sleeper bunk at the back of the cab.

All up, Wal­mart says the WAVE truck is a con­sid­er­able 20 per cent more ef­fi­cient than most of to­day’s truck and trailer com­bi­na­tions.

The pow­er­plant that sits un­der­neath the cab is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing.

There is a gas tur­bine linked up to a bat­tery pack that acts like a gen­er­a­tor.

Tur­bines were tri­alled as car en­gines in the 1960s. Chrysler built 50 ex­per­i­men­tal ve­hi­cles. Tur­bines have al­ways been too noisy and too thirsty be­cause they have to spool up and down for reg­u­lar driv­ing.

How­ever, the tech­nol­ogy makes much more sense thanks to elec­tri­fi­ca­tion. The idea now is that the tur­bine spools up, to run at an ef­fi­cient con­stant speed charg­ing a bat­tery to power an elec­tric mo­tor turn­ing the wheels. Run­ning at a stan­dard rate, re­gard­less of whether the ve­hi­cle is cruis­ing or speed­ing up and slow­ing down, al­lows for the best pos­si­ble ef­fi­ciency.

The WAVE cre­ators say the tur­bine in the truck can run on gas as well as diesel, biodiesel, gas and po­ten­tially other fu­els.

It is not clear whether the tur­bine hy­brid pow­er­train in the WAVE con­cept op­er­ates as de­scribed or whether it can op­er­ate in elec­tric only mode.

Of course, the big is­sue is go­ing to be whether the tur­bine hy­brid pow­er­plant can haul a heavy load of cargo for sev­eral hun­dred kilo­me­tres and there is also the ques­tion of how much fuel it will con­sume.

Ei­ther way, the WAVE truck will at least make people think about ways to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of trucks and trail­ers and that has to be a good thing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.