So, I didn’t stay awake to catch the Tesla Semi reveal after all. Affected by a jet lag after my recent trip to Europe I fell asleep before the event started. Not to fret, there’s plenty of coverage of the event to indulge, devour and dissect. What an evening it was!
I was right that the Semi is going to be a stunningly looking vehicle. No disappointment there, as Tesla shows off yet another beautifully designed product. Following the cues of other Tesla cars (most notably Model 3, at least as far as the “nose” is concerned) the truck looks slick and futuristic. Smooth lines provide not only a visually and aesthetically pleasing outcome, but most importantly help to achieve great drag coefficient (0.36 as mentioned during the event, better than Bugatti Chiron at 0.38 or an average truck at 0.65-0.70). Elon Musk has started with a strong note citing BAMF performance (or as he has put it, a technical term they came out with *wink*). Here are some numbers:
- 0-60 mph in 5 seconds (truck by itself or with an empty trailer)
- 0-60 mph in 20 seconds (with maximum allowed gross weight of 80,000 pounds)
- Ability to climb 5% grades at 65 mph
- 500 miles of range (300 for a base version)
- 4 independent motors at the rear wheels
- Single gear (just like in Model S or X)
If these numbers hold true till production model is available, trucking will never be the same again!
The Semi is not only pretty, but innovative and functional. The driver’s seat is in the center of the cabin, offering the best position and visibility. The cabin’s interior looks like the cockpit of a futuristic jet plane with 2 large touchscreens on each side of the driver. No gauges, buttons or other instruments traditionally found in the similar cargo carriers. The windshield is made of armored glass (or “thermonuclear explosion-proof glass” in Tesla terms) that should be able to withstand any road hazards.
Of course, being a Tesla, the truck will be equipped with similar safety features already available in other of its cars, such as Enhanced Autopilot (EAP), Lane Keeping, Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Detection. The Semi will be able to automatically come to a full stop and make an emergency call should the driver need medical attention. Of course, the driver will also be able to use the Tesla mobile app to check on the truck. Some of the additional functions will be related to preventive maintenance, communication with the fleet service or remote diagnostics.
Another great promise was related to a convoy scenario – only the leading vehicle will be operated by the driver and the rest of the convoy will simply follow the leader. Musk claimed that this is already possible today. Sounds impressive.
Tesla’s network of Superchargers already helps the owners of Model S, X and soon 3 to overcome their range anxiety. To help with the charging needs of the bigger brother, Tesla plans to introduce Megachargers (backed up by Solar and Powerpack technology) that will allow to regain 400 miles of range in 30 mins. Elon has hinted that this can be done while the cargo is being unloaded or during rests, so most likely there’s a plan to strategically deploy the infrastructure along the truck routes/stops. Now it only makes sense to see that some of the Superchargers are already located nearby truck stops!
There was no mention about the price of the Semi. The presentation suggested that the cost to operate the vehicle will be $1.26/mile (compared to $1.51/mile for diesel truck) or $0.85 in a convoy scenario. This takes into consideration the bulk electricity rate of 7 cents per kWh when using Megachargers (guaranteed once the infrastructure is in place). They also offer 1 million miles free of maintenance for the drive train.
All things considered, Tesla Semi has a chance to truly revolutionize the transport industry. 500 miles of range should be plenty to cover most of the cargo routes. Some of the major players (such as J.B. Hunt or Walmart) already pre-ordered Semi to test in their fleets and others will most likely follow. If Tesla delivers on their promise, they will make the history yet again. I am super excited about the Semi as presented. The driving experience will be very similar to that of Model S or X. Heck, one day I might be able to realize my childhood dream and become a truck driver myself!