Tesla, an electronic carmaker made an electronic semi truck with semi autonomous capabilities. Besides commenting on how fast the truck is, it is yet the most comfortable and the safest truck ever, says Tesla CEO, Elon Musk.
The semi is a fully electric Class 8 truck, a category of freight vehicles that weigh more than 33,000 pounds, including tractor-trailer rigs that form the backbone of commercial road freight. This one, Musk said, can haul 80,000 pounds. Tesla has a range of 500 miles at maximum weight at highways speeds, much higher than early spec reports of a range of 300 miles. Musk said the truck has a coefficient of drag of just 0.36, making it more aerodynamic than the Bugatti Chiron, a $2.7 million supercar with a drag coefficient of 0.38. Safety features include automatic braking, lane tracking, and “nuclear explosion-proof glass” for the windshield.
The truck can gain 400 miles of range with just a 30-minute charge from a “megacharger,” and its operating cost per mile is 20 percent below that of conventional diesel semi trucks.
Musk said that every truck which they will sell will have an enhanced autopilot as standard. That means semi-autonomous capabilities for breaking and keeping in lanes. Using the autopilot system, several Tesla trucks can form a convoy on highways, driving the operating cost down further. “It's not just economic suicide to use one diesel truck, it's economic suicide for rail,” Musk exclaims that it beats the rail too.
Musk also presented the company’s new four-seat roadster, a car with 620 miles of range that can go from zero to 60 mph in 1.8 seconds. Musk said that the point of doing this was to give a hard hit to gasoline cars. Tesla also claims it’s the fastest production car ever made.
The semi truck is clearly a major departure from Tesla’s core consumer-oriented cars like the Model S and the Model X, which are high-end electric daily drivers that compete with luxury cars.
Tesla’s first foray into commercial vehicles puts it into competition with a different cadre of manufacturers which are truck makers, rather than carmakers. Marketing trucks is quite different from marketing luxury cars. The truck’s self-driving capabilities clearly led a massive change coming in the economy. The White House Council of Economic Advisers in a report last year found that vehicle automation could threaten 2.1 million to 3.3 million jobs.
Commercial vehicles, particularly trucks, lead to major greenhouse gas emissions. According to the US Department of Energy, Class 8 trucks transport 80 percent of all goods in the United States and account for 22 percent of total energy use in transportation, burning through 28 billion gallons of fuel each year across 2.5 million trucks, each one racking up 66,000 miles annually on the odometer.
These trucks globally account for 7 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and guzzle 17 million barrels of oil per day, with demand growing by 1.9 percent per year, according to the International Energy Agency.
Most of the work goes under reducing the environmental impact of trucks has focused on getting existing manufacturers to make them more efficient and pollute less, but if they go all electric, pollution will drop to zero. Battery technology has only recently caught on to the needs of the commercial transport industry, and fleet vehicles could provide automakers a more robust business case.
Image Courtesy- CNBC, Consumer Reports