Electric vehicles have become quite the trend lately – they’re quiet, sleek, and eco-friendly. But what about an electric…semi truck? Is it even possible? Tesla CEO Elon Musk says “yes.” And not only that, he actually did it. Tesla has created an entirely electric truck. But what is this vehicle really about? What’s the big deal about the Tesla Semi? We’ll explain the basics about this very snazzy semi.
Tesla’s electric truck: The Tesla Semi
Musk showed off his company’s new electric truck in November of 2017. The truck is powered by very large batteries, so the truck can be charged like an electric car would be. Tesla’s electric truck has four motors above four wheels in the back to offer the truck excellent traction control. It was designed to be highly aerodynamic, and the design and the fact that it’s powered electrically are intended to lower the cost-per-mile for trucking businesses to below what it would be for a gas-powered vehicle.
How does it work?
The electric batteries power the truck for either 300 or 500 miles (there are two models) before they need to be charged. The batteries are very big, as one would imagine, because of the size of the truck itself and the weight of the loads the trucks carry.
Tesla claims that it only takes a half an hour for the truck to reach 80% charge (which is about 400 miles in the model that can go 500 miles on a single charge.) And then you’re good to go – you should be able to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in five seconds. Twenty seconds if you’re loaded down to the max weight of 80,000 pounds.
Tesla has made many claims about this newcomer to the trucking scene. The company says that it should save operators $200,000 over two years. They also say that it shouldn’t break down for 1,000,000 miles because it can run on two of its four motors.
The truck is ideal for short hauls (under 250 miles) between urban areas because it would not have to be recharged in the middle of the trip and urban areas are more likely to have charging stations. City truck driving might be in the Tesla Semi’s future.
Will the electric truck be autonomous?
Not exactly. It’s not self-driving. However, the truck will have cameras and sensors that will help the computer system monitor the truck’s surroundings and other drivers. These tools are intended to make the vehicle safer, but they do not mean that the truck is self-driving or that it does not need a driver to fully control it. Tesla describes the truck as having a semi-autonomous autopilot system.
The “autopilot” feature will help the truck maintain its lane, warn about an impending collision, and even brake for itself if there’s imminent danger. The idea is that if there’s an accident, the truck will act appropriately. Musk gave an example, explaining that if the driver had a medical emergency and the truck couldn’t get them to respond it would call emergency services.
Anyways, all of these features are meant to improve truck driver safety and the safety of others on the road. It’s also supposed to help truck businesses prevent accidents.
What’s the cab like?
The cab resembles a cockpit. The seat is in the middle of the cab, which is reported to be roomy and easy to walk around in as opposed to the cramped, cluttered cabs of diesel trucks. There’s a jump-seat behind and to the right of the driver for a passenger. The cab has two screens for monitoring the truck and the details of the shipment. Because there’s no ginormous engine, the trucker is seated far forward and has a great view of the road and great visibility.
What does the Tesla Semi cost?
Well, it’s a pretty penny for a pretty truck.
The model that can travel 300 miles on one charge will go for about $150,000. The model that can travel 500 miles on one charge will go for about $180,000. There’s also a limited-edition “Founder’s Series” model that will cost more than $200,000.
Who’s already onboard?
Several companies have already decided that the Tesla Semi is a worthwhile investment. The following have placed orders for their very own Tesla Semis:
- UPS – 150 trucks
- PepsiCo – 100 trucks
- Sysco – 50 trucks
- Anheuser-Busch – 40 trucks
- Wal-Mart – 15 trucks
- DHL – 10 trucks
Now, a common factor in all of these companies is that they rely heavily on shipping and freight. It makes sense for them to explore potentially cost-saving measures for their shipping needs. And they have the money to spend on it. The price tag on the Tesla Semi is impressive. It will be interesting to see what these early investors think of the new electric truck.
When will Tesla Semis hit the road?
Those who have ordered their trucks should have them delivered and ready to roll in 2019. Musk has told investors that in a few years’ time he would like to be producing 100,000 trucks annually.
What’s holding it back?
There are a few things that still need to be worked out if the Tesla Semi is to be a success.
First, there’s a lack of charging stations for electric vehicles. That limits how far and where the electric trucks are able to go. Routes would have to be planned around the charging stations. However, Tesla has promised to throw resources into this issue and create charging stations around the country.
Second, what happens when an electric truck breaks down? Yes, there are fewer moving parts because of the lack of diesel engine, but the problem is finding an auto repair shop with mechanics who know how to properly service these vehicles. So, that could be something to think about.
Is Tesla the only one to create electric trucks?
Tesla is not the only company to have electric trucks. There are several others who have either said that they’re going to be working on electric trucks and others that have already created prototypes. Among the companies creating electric trucks are Volvo, Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, and Thor Trucks (a start-up company.)
So, the impact of electric trucks is yet to be seen. It will take a long time for them to become mainstream, but it’s food for thought that Tesla has a viable electric truck model that should be ready for the roads next year. Who’s up for a game of spot-the-electric-truck?
Photo credit: Tesla.com