Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed the Tesla Semi — that fully electric Class 8 vehicle powered by a massive battery and capable of hauling 80,000 pounds— on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at SpaceX’s Hawthorne, California headquarters. And the Tesla Semi been all that alternative energy transportation folks can talk about this week. That’s because it will have a range up to 500 miles. Its carbon fiber cab will improve aerodynamics and fuel economy. Some say the Semi will cut through the wind more efficiently than some sports cars. We’ll see about that.
But, in the meantime, the Tesla Semi, which is reported to have self-driving capacity on the highway, should start production in 2019, Musk says. Wired calls it “the most electrifying gamble yet.”
The relevance and temporality of the Tesla Semi announcement cannot be minimized. Electric trucks are one of the most significant elements in the larger equation to solve climate change and mitigate air pollution.
“Heavy-duty vehicles make up a small fraction of the vehicles on the road, but a large fraction of their emissions,” says Jimmy O’Dea, who studies clean vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In California, for example, heavy-duty vehicles make up 7 percent of vehicles but 33 percent of NOx emissions from all sources and 20 percent of global warming emissions from the transportation sector. They emit more particulate matter than all of the state’s power plants.
On California’s grid today, a heavy-duty electric vehicle with middle-of-the-road efficiency has 70 percent lower life cycle global warming emissions than a comparable diesel and natural gas vehicle. Electric vehicles also don’t have any tailpipe emissions of NOx, particulate matter, or other pollutants. O’Dea argues that communities, especially those near freight corridors, will have lower risks from the harmful consequences of dirty air.
So we’ve devoted this edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review” to the impact of the Tesla Semi and the stories that emerged as a result of this long-awaited reveal.
The upcoming Tesla Semi has room for an 8 pin connector, which is four times as many pins as the Tesla Supercharger for passenger cars. Moreover, the Class 8 heavy hauler will have a range of either 300 or 500 miles, depending on the size battery installed. If a company wants to pay less, they’ll choose the smaller battery. If they need the 500 miles of range, they’ll pay the extra cost for the added range. But, setting aside the pervasive imagery we hold about long-haul trucking being cross-county, most heavy duty trucks provide service to local and regional operations. That means 100 to 200 miles of range can meet the needs of many trucking companies. Success at the local level is a starting place for Tesla to assure the trucking industry of the function and financial stability of transporting freight over longer distances with zero-emission vehicles.
The Tesla Semi will add 400 miles of range in just 30 minutes with their Megachargers. Although it’s not clear now where its new Megachargers will be located, the existing Superchargers for passenger cars are located along the most traveled transportation routes.
The U.S.-based trucking firm J.B. Hunt Transport Services is placing reservations for “multiple” units of the newly revealed Tesla Semi trucks. The company plans to deploy electric tractors to its Intermodal and Dedicated Contract Services divisions to support its operations on the West Coast. The move marked another step that the company is taking to implement industry-changing
technology, with likely implementation on local routes. J.B. Hunt promotes itself as a company that “pioneered sustainable transportation through its intermodal service.” The Tesla Semi purchase will complement other J.B. Hunt sustainable initiatives such as reducing engine idle time, governing top speed limits, converting over-the-road shipments to intermodal, engineering fleet routes that maximize efficiency, and using biodiesel fuels when possible.
The company notes that the additional investment in Tesla trucks further demonstrates its commitment to meeting the needs of an evolving supply chain and introducing new technology for its customers and employees.
Walmart has added its name to a growing list of big companies that have pre-ordered the Tesla Semi electric trucks, including J.B. Hunt Transport Services. Walmart has signed up for fifteen of the new all-electric trucks as a pilot, saying that the company’s long history of testing new technology has included “alternative-fuel trucks—and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle.” The small fleet will allow the retailer to assess how the all-electric technology performs within their supply chain. Added bonuses should include help with meeting some long-term sustainability goals like lowering emissions. Walmart will utilize five of the Semis in the U.S. and ten in Canada.
Canada-based grocery chain Loblaw says it, too, will be joining the quickly popular group of transportation companies ordering Tesla Semis. Loblaw’s purchase of 25 of the new all-electric Tesla heavy-duty trucks is part of a larger company mission to possessing an all-electric corporate fleet by 2030. Michigan-based grocery chain Meijer also has placed a pre-order of four Semis.
In 2oo3, the Eberhard/ Tarpenning team transformed a heavily modified Lotus chassis with 6,800 lithium-ion laptop batteries. Elon Musk, who at that time was a young entrepreneur, drove this first production car of the Tesla fleet. As time went on, a total of 2,450 Tesla Roadsters were sold between 2008 and 2012. Since then, however, the car has been overshadowed by new EVs with more performance capacities, such as the Tesla Model S P100D.
At the end of this week’s Tesla Semi reveal, as the audience was standing and stretching and readying for stop-and-go exiting traffic, Musk reappeared on the stage. A pre-production version of the next-generation Tesla Roadster, driven by Tesla designer, Franz von Holzhausen, emerged from the back of a Tesla Semi. With 0–60 mph in 1.9 seconds right out of the box in “base” configuration, the Tesla Roadster will become the fastest production car ever made, at 0–100 mph and in a quarter mile sprint. The car, which will have three motors — two in the rear and one in front — for true all-wheel-drive capability, is scheduled for a 2020 production date.
Why the Tesla Semi is So Important
On November 25, 2017, the Electric Vehicle (EV) Sales Experience and Best Practice Study was released. The results were not so good for U.S. car showrooms. Many car dealers, it seems, are poorly prepared to sell electric cars. The one exception was the Tesla sales staff, who the study indicated “exude a passion for electric vehicles and are equipped with the information needed to help consumers make informed decisions.”
Sure, we’ll be waiting a while until Tesla can offer a mass market all-electric EV beyond the Model 3 that is affordable enough for the average Jane to purchase. But, in the meantime, the Tesla Semi has left any long haul competition in the dust. At a point in which anthropogenic climate change is drastically changing the earth’s ecosystems, the U.S. populace needs quality information about the ways that we can lesson our carbon footprint. Seeing stalwart transportation brands like Walmart and J.B. Hunt driving Tesla Semis on our local roads will be positively reinforcing and influential about the importance of transportation that limits emissions. Trucks offer a very effective way to do that, because, without all-electric power, they are extremely toxic.
Every truck on U.S. roads that is powered by electricity rather than diesel has an exponential effect on the health of the planet and the comprehension of people who watch it drive by their communities.