You are unlikely to buy a Tesla Semi. There are, however, reasons why you should care about the massive EV.
CEO Elon Musk showed off the truck Thursday night to tout the massive machines’ first shipments to PepsiCo, which ordered 100 Tesla Semis in 2017 when the truck debuted. Tesla missed its original deadline to start sell Tesla Semis in 2019but now he builds them at a factory in Sparks, Nevada.
“It’s a beast,” Musk said of the Tesla Semi, showing video of another truck cruising uphill with a fully loaded weight of 82,000 pounds.
So no, not a machine that most of us will ever drive. But Tesla’s 18-wheeler could be important to us, anyway, as the company continues to push major changes in the auto industry. Here’s why.
Electric vehicles do not directly emit carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change, and as the power grid becomes greener, power plants do not either. Transportation accounts for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Electrification is therefore a crucial step in achieving net zero carbon emissions.
Trucks play a major role in this change, which is why US Post, UPS and Amazon adopts all electric trucks for local shipping. Long-haul shipping is more difficult, however, as larger batteries are required to reach the Tesla Semi’s 500-mile range.
Tractor-trailers make up just 1% of U.S. vehicle manufacturing, but 20% of emissions, Musk said. “You have a huge vehicle, and it drives all the time,” he said. “The company’s mission is to accelerate sustainable energy.”
This carbon emissions advantage is tied to the success of the truck. It’s unclear how much the Tesla Semis will cost or how many Teslas will make, although in 2017 the company promised a starting price of $150,000.
A big limit will be the charging infrastructure. Truckers are required to stop periodically, a good time to recharge, but until there are plenty of charging stations, Tesla Semis will be confined to a limited geography.
The Tesla Semi’s electric-motor transmission, which is computer-controlled and can react quickly, offers traction and stability control advantages to make the trucks safer for anyone on the road, at least in principle. The truck’s software control system will prevent a truck from jackknifing, Musk said.
All of this has yet to be put to the test, so it’s unclear how well the Tesla Semi will deliver on these ambitions, but it’s true that EVs do offer some benefits.
The Tesla Semi, like all electric vehicles, also uses regenerative braking which pumps power into the battery when slowing down. When you’re going down long hills, that means the brakes don’t overheat.
“That’s why you have getaway truck lanes,” Dan Priestley, Tesla’s senior truck engineering manager, said at the event. With regenerative braking, “It’s a safer system for everyone on the road.”
Another possible safety benefit could come from Tesla’s self-driving vehicle technology. Although he has not yet delivered all level 4 self-driving car technology, Tesla is shipping cars that can use the same system for safety features like automatic braking and steering, alerting drivers if they seem drowsy and tightening seat belts if the car is expecting to a collision.
However, Musk did not provide any details on the Tesla Semi’s self-driving technology.
Fast charging for Tesla Cybertrucks
To charge a massive Tesla Semi battery, Tesla will harness new drive-thru chargers capable of pumping out more than a megawatt of power. That’s enough to charge 10,000 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops at once and far more than the regular Supercharger stations that today typically offer 150-250 kilowatts.
Musk said the high-powered charging stations will be available to drivers of Tesla’s Cybertruck, the sharply angular pickup model that’s also been years behind schedule. Its larger size compared to Tesla Model 3, Y, S and X vehicles means it has a larger battery.
To handle so much electrical flow, the charger’s power cables use internal liquid cooling, Priestley said. “We can push a lot of current in a very, very small space,” he said.
Cybertruck customers will be able to connect to megawatt superchargers starting next year, Priestley said. Tesla plans to start shipping Cybertrucks in 2023two years after the initial start date of 2021.
If Tesla chooses to open up these high-powered charging stations to other automakers, as it is gradually doing with its more mainstream Superchargers, it could encourage other manufacturers to make electric trucks and prompt Tesla to build more stations. charging.
As with anything Tesla and Musk, there are always a lot of ifs and unknowns. Musk faces new distractions with his acquisition of Twitter, has yet to deliver the promised benefits of fully self-driving Tesla cars, and struggles to revolutionize transportation with his Boring Company’s tunnels.
But Musk has been generally successful so far at Tesla and his rocket company, SpaceX. Especially in the long run, the Tesla Semi could be a big deal.
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