Walmart shifts truck pilots into gear as a start to meeting its zero emissions goal

Discussion
Photo: Walmart
Jun 09, 2022

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.

Walmart shifts truck pilots into gear as a start to meeting its zero emissions goal
Photo: Walmart

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?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Sustainability efforts do take trial and error, and the more of an experimental culture retail embraces here, the quicker we can get to impactful solutions."
"Walmart is being smart by keeping options open and testing all three power trains in different situation, the rest of the industry will no doubt learn and benefit from this."
"I’m hoping they choose the one that is best for their bottom line and most sustainable."

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4 Comments on "Walmart shifts truck pilots into gear as a start to meeting its zero emissions goal"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Good for them for trying these out. No guess as to which will be better or which will be chosen — I don’t know that any of us are electrical or chemical engineers. I’m hoping they choose the one that is best for their bottom line and most sustainable.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

Alternative fuels are a critical area to test for all retailers. Walmart is smart to explore a variety of options to understand the potential benefits and barriers.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

I like the transparency around the testing they’re doing. If more retailers openly shared that they’re testing sustainable solutions, I would hope it would encourage other retailers to start dabbling. Sustainability efforts do take trial and error, and the more of an experimental culture retail embraces here, the quicker we can get to impactful solutions.

Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust

It really is going to be a mix of technologies going froward as different uses require different solutions. What is certain is that electric vehicles are not the answer for the whole supply chain, even though so many governments around the world are jumping on the electric bandwagon because it is the easiest option at the moment. JCB, the earth mover and digger company, have done a lot of work on hydrogen power plants for their vehicles and they are looking very encouraging. The comment on cost has more to do with the volume at the moment than a long-term problem, the infrastructure required, speed of refueling and range makes hydrogen a very attractive option long-term. Natural gas has many of the same attributes, but is not as environmentally friendly. Walmart is being smart by keeping options open and testing all three power trains in different situations. The rest of the industry will no doubt learn and benefit from this work.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Sustainability efforts do take trial and error, and the more of an experimental culture retail embraces here, the quicker we can get to impactful solutions."
"Walmart is being smart by keeping options open and testing all three power trains in different situation, the rest of the industry will no doubt learn and benefit from this."
"I’m hoping they choose the one that is best for their bottom line and most sustainable."

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