Walmart shifts truck pilots into gear as a start to meeting its zero emissions goal
Walmart is launching trucking pilot projects to test the use of electric, liquid hydrogen and natural gas-powered vehicles as a partial start to meeting its 2040 corporate goal of becoming a zero emissions business across its worldwide operations.
The latest projects, which include partnerships with Cummins and Freightliner, will touch on the chain’s movement of goods from over-the-road to the last mile.
Fernando Cortes, senior vice president, transportation, Walmart, writes in a blog post that the retailer is testing various fuel types for good reasons.
“Becoming a zero emissions company won’t be as simple as adopting electric alternatives. For some vehicle classes, the solution might look like a hydrogen-fueled yard truck moving an electric refrigerated trailer, which eventually gets transported by a natural gas-powered truck,” he wrote.
Mr. Cortes said that electric trucks, based on their current range and weight hauling capabilities, make the most sense for “yard operations, lighter weight hauls and day deliveries of around 200 miles.”
Liquid hydrogen is an attractive option except for cost at the present time, according to Mr. Cortes. Walmart currently uses the fuel for its forklifts in grocery distribution centers. Hydrogen vehicles have a higher range than electric vehicles and take less time to refuel.
Mr. Cortes writes that in a few months Walmart will begin testing liquid hydrogen yard trucks to move cargo containers and tractors. The trucks can operate up to 10 hours on a single refueling and will be able to use the same infrastructure as Walmart uses for its forklifts with “little to no emissions.”
The retailer is also planning to test compressed natural gas vehicles for its over-the-road operations. The fuel has a range comparable to diesel engines (around 700 miles), according to Mr. Cortes.
Walmart, early next year, will receive the new 15-liter natural gas engine from Cummins that will be added “to a few” of the retailer’s trucks.
“This brand-new engine is expected to deliver the same power and torque of a 15-liter diesel engine but with significantly lower emissions, lighter-weight and overall lower cost per mile than its diesel counterpart,” writes Mr. Cortes. “And to maximize the potential emissions benefits of utilizing this technology, we have secured agreements with Chevron to supply Walmart trucks with CNG linked to renewable natural gas.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which fuel — electric, liquid hydrogen or natural gas — do you think holds the greatest potential to replace diesel and gasoline in retail supply chain operations? What is your assessment of how Walmart is testing the various alternatives?