ELON MUSK HAS always dreamed big, and last night he showed off his biggest reverie yet: the fully electric Tesla Semi. Powered by a massive battery and capable of hauling 80,000 pounds, it can ramble 500 miles between charges. It’ll even drive itself—on the highway, at least.
And Musk promises production will start in 2019.
The big rig, which Musk unveiled at SpaceX’s Hawthorne, California headquarters Thursday night, is just the latest step in his mission to make humanity forget about planet-killing fossil fuels and embrace the gospel of electric power. That is, of course, if he can convince the trucking industry it’s time for a new way of moving stuff around—and if he can actually make the thing.
Whether Tesla can actually impact the freight truck market remains to be seen, but design is certainly part of that statement, as Tesla makes it clear that it wants to do things differently — staging a full-scale media event blitz to emphasize that point — it is perhaps the first reveal of an 18-wheeler to take the stage to the tune of trance music. Tesla is taking a page from its Model 3 playbook (a game plan that’s currently a roll of the dice), but it’s one that tends to generate tons of hype and whip the media and Musk fans into a frenzy.
The Tesla Semi will go 0 to 60 mph in just 5 seconds, which is incredibly fast compared to a diesel truck. It can go 0 to 60 mph towing 80,000 lbs, its max tow load, in just 20 seconds. It can go 65 mph up a 5 percent grade, which is way better than the 45 mph max that a diesel competitor can do. And for range, it can go 500 miles at highway speed, and less than 80 percent trips are at 250 miles. It also has a better drag coefficient than a super car thanks to its extremely aerodynamic design.
Another standout for Tesla’s Semi lies in its design – the company points out that that cabin is tailor-made for drivers, with starts that are designed to make it easier to get in and out, and the ability to stand fully when inside the cab. The driver is also centered in the cab relative to the road, a unique twist on vehicle design in general, but a logical one for a car class that almost never has a passenger. There’s a removable jump seat for a passenger, too, offset and behind the main driver position.
Tesla has also added not one, but two of its favorite in-cabin vehicle features to the Semi: Touchscreens. These are positioned on either side of the driver and offer navigation information, blind spot monitoring, and trip data logging applications. There’s also a suite of fleet management and routing tools, which Tesla says would ordinarily require third-party add-on hardware to incorporate into a car.
Tesla piled on the safety-related bits, too. The battery is reinforced to keep it from exploding or catching fire or whatnot in the event of a crash, the reinforced windshield glass shouldn’t chip or crack, and onboard sensors will look for the signs of jackknifing and adjust power to the individual wheels to keep everything in line.
This is definitely a futuristic version of the modern transport truck, with a lot of bells and whistles that indeed look like they could make the lives of both freight shipping companies and drivers much more comfortable and convenient overall. The focus on drivers, in particular, is interesting as it appears as though Tesla is hoping to gain support for its trucking from ground-up endorsement, as well as by appealing to the long-term financial reasoning of the shipping companies themselves.
What Tesla has done today is shown that it wants to invigorate a segment, rather than just make something to comply with more stringent emissions regulations. Through the design and packaging alone, Tesla is applying some of its most notable brand cues to a type of vehicle it’s never made before. And in the process, it’s trying to do for heavy-duty commercial vehicles what it did for luxury cars — plough forward in its own lane.
Telsa has already secured an order for four of its trucks from Meijer Inc, the big-box chain headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Each reservation required a $5,000 deposit.
(Sourced from The Verge, Techcrunch, Wired)