Tesla has finally unveiled its much-anticipated fully electric semi truck, and it’s threatening to turn the entire shipping world on its ear. According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s fanfare-steeped show, the truck can reach 60 miles per hour in five seconds with an empty trailer, or in 20 seconds while pulling its max load of 80,000 pounds.
It can drive up to 500 miles on the highway between charges, even with a full load. It’s much more aerodynamic than its diesel competitors, and may even come equipped with Tesla’s iconic autopilot system.
On paper, Tesla’s semi sounds like the best thing to hit the big truck industry since seatbelts, but when it comes down to it, how well can this new electric semi work?
While Tesla has yet to put their truck to the test with a career driver behind the wheel, these new electric semis are supposed to provide better performance than traditional diesel engines. For one thing, they can allegedly drive at 65 miles per hour on a 5 percent grade — diesel engines can only manage around 45 mph on the same incline.
Like most Tesla vehicles, the electric trucks will also have a transmission that doesn’t require shifting. Musk promises they’ll be equipped with regenerative braking — a system that converts the kinetic energy of the braking system into electrochemical energy, which essentially charges the battery while you’re pressing the brakes.
All this sounds amazing — but since none of these trucks have rolled off the assembly line yet, it’s hard to say whether these advances are going to change the trucking industry, or just be expensive toys.
Are There Enough Techs?
When it comes to maintaining long-haul semi trucks, you can find a diesel mechanic in nearly every truck stop in America. If you’ve got a problem, there’s always someone there who can help you fix it. With these new electric trucks, if you break down on the side of the highway, you may find yourself with an expensive towing bill to get your rig back to a garage with a Tesla-trained technician who can fix the problem.
Now, this isn’t to say we’re expecting Tesla’s trucks to break down, but until we’ve got time to train a new generation of electric truck mechanics, there may be a distinct lack of sufficiently trained technicians to keep these fleets running.
Orders Already In
In spite of the lack of real-world road testing and a deposit cost that jumped recently from $5,000 to $20,000, Tesla is still getting orders for its Class 8 electric semi truck. Delivery company DHL has placed an order for 10 units to use for local shuttle runs and same-day deliveries. Titanium, a shipping company in Ontario, has ordered five semis for a kind of trial run — it’s a small number compared to the 450 trucks it manages on a daily basis. Fortigo, another logistics company in Canada, has reserved one truck for the same reason.
Big names like Walmart and Meijer have also reserved some Class 8 trucks, though we don’t have any information about how many trucks they have reserved.
So the question remains — can the Tesla semi work? The answer is yes — if it can live up to its hype. We’ll learn more in the coming months after the first Class 8 trucks roll off the assembly line and actually get to work.
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