Everyone loves to bash corporations, but few talk about how much good they can do in this world. Their immense fortunes and longevity means they can undertake radical, expensive experiments that smaller outfits simply couldn't sustain.
A good case in point is Walmart and their Advanced Vehicle Experience concept truck. Built earlier this year as a testbed for their fleet efficiency program, it features a 53-foot trailer whose roof and sidewalls are made from single-piece 53-foot-long panels of carbon fiber. This confers a weight savings of some 4,000 pounds, meaning it can carry an extra 4,000 in cargo to burn the same amount of fuel, or carry the same weight of cargo as before and save a tremendous amount of fuel.
Creating carbon fiber panels of that length is fiendishly expensive, and a company would have to ship a lot of cargo indeed before they'd make their money back on fuel costs. In other words, you'd need a Walmart to do something like this. With 6,000 trucks crawling our continent and logging millions of miles, the overall, long-term impact would be substantial.
The carbon fiber trailer isn't the only innovation here, of course. The radical-looking shape of the tractor increases aerodynamic efficiency 20% over their standard truck, the engine is a microturbine-driven "fuel-flexible" hybrid electric, the driver's seat has been centered for better visibility, and more—check out the demo vid:
See Also: Walmart's Supercube