Automotive

The Tesla Semi electric truck exceeds the hype

The Tesla Semi electric truck ...
When fully laden and travelling at 65 mph, the Tesla Semi can cover an astonishing 500 miles on a single charge
When fully laden and travelling at 65 mph, the Tesla Semi can cover an astonishing 500 miles on a single charge
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When fully laden and travelling at 65 mph, the Tesla Semi can cover an astonishing 500 miles on a single charge
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When fully laden and travelling at 65 mph, the Tesla Semi can cover an astonishing 500 miles on a single charge
In place of the usual collection of levers and switches there are two touch screens mounted either side of the steering wheel
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In place of the usual collection of levers and switches there are two touch screens mounted either side of the steering wheel
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Elon Musk presents the new Tesla Semi
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Elon Musk presents the new Tesla Semi

Themuch-awaited reveal of the Tesla Semi electric truck took place inHawthorne, California, in typical Elon Musk style.Speculation prior to the presentation was substantially exceeded withits claimed range well beyond the 300 miles (500 km) expected andacceleration figures that place the unladen tractor unit insports car territory.

Afterthe two Tesla 18-wheel Semis swung into position, Elon Musk steppedout of the high-roof model to begin his presentation. The firststatistic presented was the Semi's acceleration to 60 mph (97km/h)from standstill which, he said it does in 5.0 seconds when empty.That is sports car territory. Perhaps even more impressive was the claim of reaching 60 mph fully laden tothe maximum permissible total of 80,000 lb (36,288 kg) in 20 seconds. Also remarkable is the claim that the Semi can maintain 65mph (105 km/h) fully laden up a 5 percent grade.

As to the all-importantrange figure. When fully laden and travelling at 65 mph, the Tesla Semi can cover anastonishing 500 miles (805 km) on a single charge according to Musk. For those who might quickly comparethat to the average range of a diesel truck, which can approach twicethat, he added that 80 percent of long-haul routes are less than 250 miles(400 km) one-way, so the Semi can complete most round trips on asingle charge. If not, 30 minutes on a Tesla fast charger will enablea topped-up range of 400 miles (644 km). To deflect concerns aboutthe 30-minute wait, Musk pointed out that it takes 15 to 20 minutesto refuel a diesel truck and added that drivers must take rest breaksproviding an ideal time to recharge.

Elon Musk presents the new Tesla Semi
Elon Musk presents the new Tesla Semi

Whenthe trucks first pulled into the presentation site, they made a largeU-turn in front of the audience before being parked and the snug fitbetween the back of the cab and the trailer could be seen to openwith what looked like hydraulic rams creating room for the cab toturn. The gap immediately closed again as the rig straightened up,eliminating the gap that creates significant aerodynamic drag onconventional rigs.

That innovative feature on the Semi is entirely inkeeping with its streamlined cab and surely contributes to theclaimed coefficient of drag (cD) of only 0.36. As Musk pointed out, the $2.7 million Bugatti Veyron supercar has a higher cD of 0.38. Also adding to the vehicle's efficiency is the use of four independent wheel motors on the two rear axles of the cab. This avoids the mechanical losses of driving the wheels from a single motorand enables electronic traction control.

Insidethe cab the driver's seat is in the centre and placed well forward, leaving room below and to the rear for what is surely a massivebattery pack, and while it appears to be large enough to accommodate asleeper, it is a day cab configuration. In place of the usual collection of levers and switches there are two touch screens mountedeither side of the steering wheel.

In place of the usual collection of levers and switches there are two touch screens mounted either side of the steering wheel
In place of the usual collection of levers and switches there are two touch screens mounted either side of the steering wheel

Unsurprisingly, the electronic systemsinclude advanced driver assistance features such as lane keepingassistance and automatic emergency braking, and extend to autonomousfunctions such as platooning capability. As part of the data inputrequired for automated driving, two cameras mounted under the large,exterior mirrors, also display images of the side of the rig on thetwo interior screens.

Theweight of the Semi was not specified, raising the question of howmuch of the 80,000 lb can be payload. Likewise, the retail price was revealed, although Musk gave a hint about its premium over adiesel semi when he claimed that the expected payback period fromfuel savings will be around two years under average operatingconditions. That claim was based on his assertion that the Tesla Semiwill incur operating costs of $1.26 per mile, whereas a dieselequivalent costs $1.51 per mile.

And the final surprise? Out of one of the trucks popped the new Tesla Roadster. Its claimed range is 620 miles (1,000 km) and its zero to60 mph time is an eye-popping 1.9 seconds. But that is another story.

Source: Tesla

14 comments
VincentWolf
The end of the big oil monopoly is on the verge of becoming reality. It's time to short oil and gas! From Trains on down to the smallest roller skate will be powered by electricity in 20 years. All gasoline and diesels will be outlawed and relegated to museums. Electrical power is 3 times as efficient, powerful, etc. And non-polluting if solar and wind are used to charge them--which they will be. The world is changing rapidly now. I just wish I was born about 2010 to see the changes that will come about because of getting rid of ALL fossil fuels--including jet fuels--in the near future. Even the hydrogen to push spacecraft into space will be produced by solar eventually. There is simply no need for any burning of any fossil fuels anymore--much like there is no need to burn logs to stay warm.
highlandboy
Love the tech, love the concept. Now we have to wait and see if Tesla can overcome its production problems. If so this will become a viable company - if not it may become a financial nightmare.
YuraG
Whereas an ICE placed in front or under the cabin confers a degree of passive safety, a hundreds of kWh battery placed there must be classified as an active hazard. But the concept is great even if it'll be widely adopted some 20-30 years from now. EVs must start dominating cities first before moving to the highways. I hope I'm wrong though. Good luck Elon, you need a lot of it.
possum1
Great for short work and city deliveries & pickups, BUT, as quick as the re-charge rate is ( equal to refueling a diesel ), the entire truck-stop would need re-wiring to install sufficient numbers of charging points. Then the electricity grid would need to be upgraded to cope with the load. Then, will your wind turbine meet base load ? Better fire up some more power plants - nuclear or coal ? Will they build a model to B- double spec ( GVM 63 tonnes ) ? Good looking truck with excellent tech. Close but no cigar - yet.
dominic
To yuraG : On the contrary, the engine is a proven nightmare when it hits you. The Tesla cars all have a reinforced crumple zone in the front and are the big winners on crash tests. To possum1 : Musk announced his own "Mega-Chargers" network providing 400 miles of charge in 30 minutes. And no worry for the grid as all of those stations will be solar/battery powered only, providing electrons in sufficient numbers 24/7. Teslarati has a good article on this.
Johannes
The comparison of refueling and recharging times is a valid one, because for safety reasons, refueling needs driver involvement. Recharging can be carried out while the driver is on a break, as the process is continually and automatically monitored to detect abnormal conditions.
Bob Stuart
Many steps forward, but the touch screens are absurd, requiring the driver to take his eyes off the road. In an aircraft, every control has a different shape of knob, for tactile confirmation.
swaan
Great article and thanks for the metric units! yuraG - the battery is centrally located in the frame - in the front there is a small trunk :) possum1 - Elon said the electricity price will be fixed to 7ct/kWh. The only way they can achive this is by producing and storing the power onsite. I bet they will further lower this price after 7-10 years as the technology becomes cheaper. Bob Stuart - this is unfounded. A pilot always has to visually confirm that they hit the right button and some of the knobs and buttons are so far away from the windscreen that you wont be able to see outside at all while you operate them. A good touch screen interface can give very precise/quick visual feedback about its operation that is hard to mimic with knobs, for example. Plus a touch screen interface means many new features/function can be added only with software updates.
Paulinator
This technology is great when you don't factor in the 3rd world pit mines, the heavy metals and rear earth toxic materials, the coal or gas or nuclear powered primary electricity sources, etc. LNG could provide a cleaner solution with minor tweaks to existing equipment and infrastructure.
Douglas E Knapp
Paulinator, have you been in any new car? They all have batteries, motors and computers. Staying with gas will not save the world from all the poisons you mention. On top of that I would rather have one factory making pollution in China that millions of cars right were I breath and live. Bob Stuart, Even if you were correct about the screens, you miss the point that the truck can drive itself! This means that a few seconds looking at the screen is not a big risk. Also I see truckers all the time on their cell phones or watching movies while driving. I would much rather have them doing that in a self monitoring Tesla Truck than a normal one.