Tesla has unveiled the Semi and this electric truck appears the most ambitious EV from the Californians to date. A range of up to 800 kilometres supported by autonomous driving and a Megacharger are features designed to distinguish Tesla from any competitors even more clearly than expected.
Start with the range promise Tesla CEO Elon Musk made at the presentation just a few hours ago: 400 miles (640 kilometres) recharged in half an hour at said Megacharger is a bit more than what observers had predicted, who believed Tesla would tackle the medium range segment around 500 km. But there is a second battery option for the electric truck, that increases range from 480 to 800 kilometres, or 300 to 500 miles. The latter results in a massive power pack the truck will haul on top of the 40 tons of whatever goods it may deliver.
The Semi’s drive sits at the rear axles. Four electric motors, the same as in the Model 3, operate independently and shall accelerate from 0 – 100 kph in under 5 seconds when the truck is empty, faster than a BMW i3. Under load, acceleration decreases to 20 seconds, still quicker than any diesel-powered lorry, and driving speed is capped at 104 kph.
In terms of design, the Semi certainly evokes desire and redefines what a truck looks like. Improved aerodynamics inform the sleek carbon-fibre chassis but the wow factor is in the interior, where the driver takes centre stage. The seat is in the middle of the cabin and so far forward, one can see the ground in front of the vehicles flat nose. Without a need for a huge diesel engine under the hood, there is space in the cabin for an average person to stand upright.
15 inch touch screens left and right of the steering wheel will handle data logging, navigation and also illuminate blind spots. For further safety, the Semi will have enhanced Autopilot features that help the heavy weight to stay within the lanes on motorways and to keep its distance . Still, a human driver will have to be in control at all times.
Some questions remain. Will Tesla manage to break into the utility vehicle market but also, will the company be able to deliver on its promises? No data has been disclosed on torque for example, nor has the EV maker liberated the size of the battery pack. For the Megachargers, certainly one of the biggest pulls when opting for a Tesla Semi, Musk said a network would be installed worldwide but has not given a time line. Thus the option to install such electric UV chargers at depots seems like a good place to start from.
A price has not been given either but Tesla estimates the Semi will cost 20 percent less per kilometre in operation than an ICE model. Reservations can now be made for 5,000 dollars and Musk said production will start by 2019.
Experience teaches caution with such timelines. Yet, the physical promise of the Tesla Semi electric truck alone should be enough to stir the market, and ideally lead the electrification of more utility vehicles.
greencarcongress.com, wired.com, theverge.com