Why the Tesla Semi is more important than its new roadster
At the end of last week, Tesla launched a significant motor vehicle, and no we do not speak of the new, and astoundingly quick roadster, capable of 0–60mph (or 0–100km/h) in a nauseating 1.9 seconds.
Instead we speak of the Tesla Semi, a vehicle set to completely revolutionise the short haul transport industry, whether the industry likes it or not. It will change the game, permanently.
Why, or in fact, how, I hear you ask. Let’s put it this way, it’s an electric truck that could save more $200,000 over the life cycle of its batteries on fuel alone for transport companies.
Now imagine your a short haul truck company that has ten of these. That’s a whopping $2 million in fuel savings alone, let alone the maintenance and other associated costs of not having to look after a diesel engine.
Company boss Elon Musk boasts the new Tesla Semi will be a far better experience for truck drivers, while increasing safety and significantly reducing the cost of cargo transport, thanks to unrivalled performance specifications.
Without a trailer, the Tesla Semi achieves 0–60mph in 5 seconds (0–100km/h); those are Tesla Model S and Model X kind of numbers, compared to 15 seconds in a comparable diesel truck. It does 0–60mph in 20 seconds with a full 36.5 tonne load, a task that takes a diesel truck about a minute.
Most notably for truck drivers and other travellers on the road, it climbs 5 percent grades at a steady 65mph (105km/h), whereas a diesel truck maxes out at 44mph (72km/h) on a 5 percent grade.
The Tesla Semi requires no shifting or clutching for smooth acceleration and deceleration, and its regenerative braking recovers 98% of kinetic energy to the battery, giving it a basically infinite brake life.
Overall, the Semi is more responsive, covers more miles than a diesel truck in the same amount of time, and more safely integrates with passenger car traffic.
Impressively, the Tesla Semi can also travel in a convoy, where one or several Semi trucks will be able to autonomously follow a lead Semi.
Unlike other trucks, the Semi’s cabin is designed specifically around the driver, featuring unobstructed stairs for easier entry and exit, full standing room inside, and a centered driver position for optimal visibility.
Two touchscreen displays positioned symmetrically on both sides of the driver provide easy access to navigation, blind spot monitoring and electronic data logging.
Built-in connectivity integrates directly with a fleet’s management system to support routing and scheduling, and remote monitoring. Diesel trucks today currently require several third party devices for similar functionality.
Megachargers, a new high-speed DC charging solution, will add about 385 miles (620 kilometres) in 30 minutes and can be installed at origin or destination points and along heavily trafficked routes, enabling recharging during loading, unloading, and driver breaks.
The Tesla Semi’s all-electric architecture is designed to have a higher safety standard than any other heavy-duty truck on the market, with a reinforced battery that shields the Semi from impact and gives it an exceptionally low centre of gravity. Its windshield is made of impact resistant glass.
Jackknifing is prevented due to the Semi’s on board sensors that detect instability and react with positive or negative torque to each wheel while independently actuating all brakes.
The surround cameras aid object detection and minimise blind spots, automatically alerting the driver to safety hazards and obstacles.
With Enhanced Autopilot, the Tesla Semi features Automatic Emergency Braking, Automatic Lane Keeping, Lane Departure Warning, and event recording.
With far fewer moving parts than a diesel truck — no engine, transmission, after-treatment system or differentials to upkeep — the Tesla Semi also requires significantly less maintenance.
Its battery is similar in composition to the batteries of Tesla energy products and is designed to support repeated charging cycles for more than 994,000 miles or 1.6 million kilometres, while its motors are derived from the motors used in the Model 3 and have been validated to last that distance, or better, under the most demanding conditions.
For truck companies who might consider the Tesla Semi, the biggest immediate cost-advantage will come from savings in energy costs: fully loaded, the Tesla Semi consumes less than 1.5 kilowatt-hours of energy per mile (less than 3kwh per kilometre) and is capable of 500 miles (800 kilometres) in a single charge.
Reservations for the Tesla Semi can be made for just $5,000 US (or just over $6,500 Australian dollars), with production commencing in 2019.
Change is not always a bad thing though, especially when their are significant cost and environmental benefits here.
It might take a day, or a year, or even a few years, but at some point the reticent to change transport industry will have an epiphany, and the Tesla Semi will hit the road in droves. The transport game will never be the same.