The Tesla Semi electric truck exceeds the hype
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.
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.
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.