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Wal-Mart's new rig is big on carbon fiber

By: Kerri Jansen

March 6, 2014

Wal-Mart sees your carbon fiber sports cars and raises you 14 wheels.

The retail giant has unveiled a tractor-trailer concept called the Wal-Mart Advanced Vehicle Experience (WAVE), with a trailer made from carbon fiber. The 18-wheeler showcases lightweighting and other modifications geared toward delivering more cargo with less fuel and fewer miles driven.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Ark., operates one of the nation’s biggest private truck fleets, covering 700 million miles each year, according to its website. The WAVE underscores Wal-Mart’s goal to double its fleet’s efficiency by 2015; though the WAVE is still a concept and may never see commercial use, “it will allow us to test new technologies and new approaches,” president and CEO Doug McMillon wrote in the company’s blog.

The 53-foot carbon fiber panels on the WAVE’s trailer represent the first time one-piece carbon fiber panels of that size have been manufactured, Wal-Mart said. Swapping traditional materials for carbon fiber adds up to a weight savings of about 4,000 pounds. And the front of the trailer is convex to improve aerodynamics and boost cargo space.

The WAVE’s sleek bottlenose trailer features a center-mounted driver’s seat and a sliding door, along with a full-size sleeper that has yet to appear in those premium roadsters.