Tesla Unveils Electric Semi Truck

 In green, green eco-friendly, truckers, trucking

Tesla unveiled two electric semi trucks Thursday (November 16th) as CEO Elon Musk stepped out of one of the prototypes and onto stage in front of what seemed to be an overly enthusiastic crowd.

Even if the cheers did seem like a bit much for the unveiling of semi trucks, it is exciting to see the leaps being made in truck technology, especially in terms of the electric truck.

According to Statista (using data from the EPA), freight trucks (that’s including medium and heavy duty trucks but not light trucks) accounted for 23% of transportation-related greenhouse gas in 2015. That’s 8% more than all U.S. aircraft, rail, ship, boat, and bus emissions combined.

The only transportation form creating more greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to Statista, is cars. Coming in right behind freight trucks are light trucks, including those typically used for personal travel, at 18% of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Tesla’s new semi trucks won’t replace all those diesel freight trucks out there producing greenhouse gas emissions, but the emission-free vehicles are a step in that direction.

Here are some highlights about the truck from Musk’s presentation:

  • 80,000 lbs max gross vehicle weight
  • 0-60 in 30 seconds (at max gross vehicle weight)
  • Goes 65 mph up hill (5% grade) compared to 45 mph from diesel trucks
  • 500 mile range between charging (at highway speed)
  • 4 electric motors
  • 0.36 drag coefficient (better than a “super car”)
  • Charges to 400 mile range in 30 minutes
  • Armor glass windows

Musk raved about the safety advances of Tesla’s new electric semi:

“Even if you’re in the truck and you have a medical emergency, the truck will stay in lane and gradually come to a halt and put on the emergencies. If it doesn’t hear a response from you it will actually call emergency services and get an ambulance. It is going to take care of you. It is going to take care of other cars. It is going to take care of pedestrians. This is a massive increase in safety.”

Those safety features include:

  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Automatic lane keeping
  • Forward collision warning

Shippers might worry that the buying of these trucks will be costly and hurt the bottom line through increased trucking costs. While I haven’t seen what the final price tag on the vehicle is, Musk emphasized the semi truck’s money saving value with these points:

  • 20% less expensive than a diesel truck per mile
  • When in convoy, 50% less expensive than diesel and cheaper than rail

“It’s economic suicide to use rail. This beats rail,” Tusk said.

On top of that, maintenance costs should be lower. Tusk was convinced that truckers would not ever need to change brake pads on these trucks. That’s a pretty incredible claim, but even bigger was when Tusk said:

“We are guaranteeing that this truck will not break down for a million miles.”

In the long run, such vehicles could mean cost savings on the trucking portion of shipping.

It’s not hard to see why Musk describes Tesla’s new electric semis as BAMF. For those of you who don’t know what that means, look up Dane Cook.

Of course, there are those who aren’t totally convinced.

inside Tesla's semi truck

Inside Tesla’s electric semi truck. Picture courtesy of Tesla

Ex-trucker Jonathon Ramsey wrote an article posted by MSN questioning the design of Tesla’s new semi, criticizing the centered driver’s seat, screens in the cab, lack of mirrors, and more while questioning Tesla’s claim that the truck couldn’t jackknife.

John Peterson wrote an article in Seeking Alpha saying Tesla’s electric semis “will almost certainly be shelved.”

Production is not slated for the semi until 2019, and Tesla has been known to fall behind on such production dates in the past. However, there are companies with enough confidence in Tesla and the new trucks to have already put in orders.

According to an Elizabeth Landrum written article in American Shipper:

… trucking companies J.B. Hunt Transport Services and Ryder System Inc., as well as retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have already placed orders for “multiple” Tesla Semis, while Canadian grocery giant Loblaw announced that it is purchasing 25 semis with a $5,000 deposit for each upfront, according to the Canadian Press.

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