Who would have thought that Tesla, under the leadership of Elon Musk, would decide that it’s a good idea to get into the business of haulage — and in an electric truck, no less! Yet that’s exactly what Mr. Musk had in mind when he unveiled Tesla’s brand new, one-of-a-kind electric truck on November 16, 2017!
A Sign of the Times?
With global warming and preservation of the planet on the minds of so many, an electric truck actually makes pretty good sense. After all, over-the-road freight hauling is still the number one way goods are delivered to stores and businesses all over the world. Unfortunately, they’re also huge emitters of greenhouse gases.
In the U.S., big rig semi-truck trailers are by far the leading contributors for several reasons. Ironically, even as emission rules and standards have tightened on automobiles, there are more diesel-chugging big rigs on the road than ever before.
Compounding the problem is the fact that many of these trucks are older models, that are less fuel-efficient than their newer counterparts. (In the U.S., the average truck gets only 6 miles to the gallon and produces higher concentrations of pollution than cars.
According to Greenpeace Corps.com, the haulage industry as it’s currently operating is “consuming more fuel than any other, while burning that fuel with the least efficiency”! Even when drivers stop for the night, they often leave their trucks idling, meaning that they keep spouting harmful CO2 emissions whether they’re on the road or not!
Tesla’s new electric lorry aims to change the haulage industry in a big way, and even though the trucks won’t go into production until 2019, they’ve already had an order for 15 test trucks from retail giant Walmart — 5 for its U.S. operations and 10 for its Canadian fleet.
The new truck — the prototype of which was unveiled in Hawthorne, California — promises to significantly reduce emissions if it catches on, as Tesla believes it will. Why? Tesla claims that its new electric semi-truck, powered by a battery and almost self-driving, will be less expensive to operate than the current diesel-sippers that dominate the roadways today.
Tesla claims that its new electric truck will have a charging range of 500 miles – more than enough to serve the trucking industry, whose typical trip averages 250 miles. Furthermore, the new truck can go from 0 to 60 mph in an astonishing 5 seconds without a trailer, and in just 20 seconds when towing a fully-loaded trailer! (That’s less than a third of the more than 1 minute it currently takes most semis to get up to speed on the highway!)
Because the truck is more efficient and has fewer moving parts (no engine, transmission or drive shaft) than the trucks it plans to replace, Tesla says, it will require less maintenance, and be cheaper to operate.
The Tesla truck is powered by a huge battery that sits beneath the cab plus two electric motors that turn the truck’s rear wheels. The combination of faster acceleration and higher uphill speeds will enable it to cover more miles in less time than an average diesel truck does.
What About Charging?
To accommodate charging needs, Tesla plans to install what they call “megacharger stations” across the country, where drivers can take a 1/2 hour break while their trucks’ batteries recharge. (No word on whether those charging stations will include anything like a truck-stop diner or showers like many traditional truck stops do, however.)
In typical Tesla fashion, the new truck has a cab that’s large enough for a person to stand up in. The driver’s seat is located on neither the left nor the right side, but instead sits in the centre of the cab. Sitting on either side of the driver’s seat are two large display screens to provide scheduling and navigation data, as well as allowing for blind spot elimination and views of the area around the truck.
The driver’s seat, says Fortune Magazine contributor, Kirsten Korosec, is quite comfortable and “bouncy”, and there are plenty of cup holders and areas for storage, as well as a somewhat “stiffer, less comfortable” seat located behind the driver.
The New York Times also reports on the truck’s autopilot feature, which can automatically steer, speed up and hit the brakes for other vehicles or obstacles, although drivers still have to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel while using the feature.
Here’s the real surprise, though: Musk claims that the new vehicle can go 1 million miles before it needs service. Can he deliver on that promise? Only time will tell!