Who knew Wal-Mart wants to roll forward research on hybrid drivetrains for diesel trucks? We've been following Wal-Mart's forays into biodiesel and hydrogen for a while, but an announcement by ArvinMeritor, Inc. yesterday that they have been tapped by the retailing giant to develop a dual-mode, diesel-electric drivetrain for a Class 8 tractor caught us a little by surprise. Still, it's a very welcome surprise.

ArvinMeritor said this vehicle would likely be the first dual-mode diesel-electric tractor prototype in development in North America. ArvinMeritor will use an International Class 8 ProStar tractor and an engine developed by Cummins Inc. as the basis for the prototype. ArvinMeritor will use someone else's batteries for the hybrid (Who? They're not saying), but will provide the regenerative braking system and electronic controls, among other things. The electric motor will move the truck during "periods of high demand under low-speed, high-load operating conditions, such as accelerating from a stop," and the diesel engine kicks in at highway speeds. In between, well, it's a hybrid, so both will contribute. The electric motor can also assist when needed, such as when traveling up a hill.

Even though Wal-Mart announced a while ago it wants to double the fuel efficiency of its heavy-duty truck fleet in 10 yeas, the company does have some cleaning up to do. In late 2005, Wal-Mart settled a lawsuit with the EPA for clean air violations by taking part in an anti-idling campaign at its 4,000 locations across the country.

Detail junkies, click through the jump for the full press release from ArvinMeritor.

Related:
[Source: ArvinMeritor, Inc.]

ArvinMeritor to Develop First Dual-Mode Heavy-Duty Diesel-Electric Drivetrain for Wal-Mart Transportation

Development vehicle offers reduced fuel consumption, lower maintenance costs, fewer emissions

TROY, Mich., Jan. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- ArvinMeritor, Inc. and Wal-Mart Transportation, Bentonville, Ark., have agreed to development of a dual-mode, diesel-electric drivetrain for a Class 8 tractor. The vehicle, which is believed to be the first dual-mode diesel-electric tractor prototype in development in North America, will be based on an International Class 8 ProStar tractor and powered by an engine developed by Cummins Inc.

"We've been working on development of hybrid drivetrains for some time," said Carsten J. Reinhardt, president of the company's Commercial Vehicle Systems (CVS) business. "This Class 8 project is a major step in our continuing work in alternative drivetrain development - both for power transmission and emissions - and holds tremendous promise for the worldwide heavy-duty trucking market in a number of important environmental and economic ways."

ArvinMeritor will provide the tandem axle, regenerative braking system, air disc brakes and advanced ABS with integrated stability control and driver assistance systems (from Meritor WABCO Vehicle Control Systems), software, electronic controls, transfer case, motors, as well as the battery power from a third party.

"ArvinMeritor is a leader in all areas of drivetrain and brake system development for heavy-duty commercial vehicles and is an ideal partner for Wal-Mart for the development of this dual-mode diesel-electric systems," said Tim Yatsko, senior vice president-transportation for Wal-Mart. "We knew it would take a highly integrated approach, and we believe ArvinMeritor understands all of the pieces of the puzzle needed to complete this picture."

Wal-Mart had announced earlier that in the next 10 years, it intends to double the fuel efficiency for its fleet of heavy-duty trucks.

Dual-mode diesel-electric drivetrains, which have both mechanical and electrical propulsion systems, use the electric motor drive primarily for periods of high demand under low-speed, high-load operating conditions, such as accelerating from a stop. Once moving, the mechanical propulsion system begins to blend its power with the electric motor until it reaches highway speeds, where the drive phases to completely mechanical. The electrical system can provide additional power during hill climbing, even at highway speeds.

In addition to its work at highway speeds, the engine also charges an onboard energy storage system, which provides power to the electric motor when demand is high. Energy that is generated during braking is captured and stored using regenerative braking.

In March 2005, ArvinMeritor announced an arrangement with Unicell on a commercial pick-up and delivery program with an ArvinMeritor alternative drivetrain, featuring the company's electric axle and system integration of motors, gears and controls. It offers zero emissions and fossil fuel consumption, a ten percent increase in driver productivity from vehicle enhancements. The end-user customer is considering a larger order of the vehicle.

ArvinMeritor, Inc. is a premier global supplier of a broad range of integrated systems, modules and components to the motor vehicle industry. The company serves light vehicle, commercial truck, trailer and specialty original equipment manufacturers and certain aftermarkets. Headquartered in Troy, Mich., ArvinMeritor employs approximately 27,500 people at more than 112 manufacturing facilities in 26 countries. ArvinMeritor common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol ARM. For more information, visit the company's Web site at: http://www.arvinmeritor.com/.

[Source: ArvinMeritor, Inc.]