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.”
Tesla Semi pic.twitter.com/7VLz7F46Ji
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 17, 2017
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.