Here Is the 500-Mile, 80,000-Pound, All-Electric Tesla Semi Truck
Complete with a carbon fiber cab and autonomous convoy capabilities. Time to get a CDL.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised to upend the trucking industry, and with a 500 mile electric range, supercar-level aerodynamics, autonomous convoy capabilities, and a claimed 0-60 mph time of five seconds, the Tesla Semi unveiled on Thursday night could be just the tool for the job.
In a presentation that began with him riding onstage in the cab of his latest creation, Musk rattled off a laundry list of specs to showcase the Tesla Semi's "BAMF Performance" and all-out superiority over the current fleet of diesel trucks plying and polluting America's roads. That trailer-less 0-60 mph time is a fun yardstick, but for truck drivers, what really matters is that 500-mile, highway-speed range—which Musk claimed can be achieved while pulling a max 80,000-pound load.
Since 80 percent of truck routes in this country are less than 250 miles, that means it would be possible for a Tesla Semi to complete a trip and return to a dispatch center to pick up another load on a single charge. The impressive range has been achieved thanks in part to its futuristic design, which closes off the gap between the cab and the trailer (using adaptable side panels for older trailers) and smooths out the undercarriage to give it a better drag coefficient than a Bugatti Chiron. And just like a supercar, there's a little frunk for your luggage.
It's powered by a massive low-mounted battery to decrease rollover risk, which is connected to four independent electric motors derived from the Model 3 and located in each of the rear four wheels. There's no transmission, which means no more shifting through 18 gears for truckers, while regenerative braking promises to further extend range and give brake pads an "infinite" lifespan. The entire drivetrain will be covered by a million-mile breakdown guarantee—though Musk noted that you can still drive it on two motors, so don't confuse that with a full warranty.
Inside, the traditional trucker's cab has been reinvented as well. Made with carbon fiber panels, the The Tesla Semi's cabin features a central driving position, with two screens flanking the steering wheel. The whole thing is clean, modern, and incredibly spacious, and Musk pointed out that the screens can be integrated with fleet technologies to cut down on the number of third-party devices drivers need to cart around. The windshield will be made of thermonuclear explosion-proof glass to prevent dangerous cracks. There's no word on a sleeper cab for now, though.
Despite all that, the most revolutionary parts are found in the safety tech. The electric semi will be equipped with anti-jackknife dynamic torque technology at each wheel, ending what Musk called "a trucker's worst nightmare." And every single Tesla Semi will come with the company's Autopilot system standard, which will not only allow the truck to mostly drive itself on the highway like any other Tesla, but communicate and move in tandem with other Tesla Semis to form an autonomous convoy as well.
Backing up this new form of trucking will be an ambitious network of Megachargers, solar-powered DC units that will act as stationary power banks and provide 400 miles of range in a 30 minute charge, all at a guaranteed low wholesale rate. On day one, Musk promised a 17 percent drop in operating costs compared to a diesel truck. And with far fewer moving parts compared to an internal combustion engine, savings on maintenance should continue to pile up over time.
And unlike buying a truck from, say, Volvo or Daimler, getting behind the wheel of a Tesla Semi will also grant truckers the same ownership experience as Model S and Model X owners. The truck will be connected to the Tesla app, which offers diagnostic, management, and vehicle tracking features. But the presentation ended without any information on just how much the truck will cost, where it will be built, and when it will officially go on sale. Musk also briefly showed an image of a heavy-duty pickup truck version the company has been considering, but no further details were given on that.
Should the company live up to these lofty promises, the Tesla Semi will be a truly revolutionary vehicle, cutting down on a massive source of emissions and hauling the $700 billion trucking industry into the 21st century. Of course, similar things could be said about the Model 3, which the company is still struggling to get into mass production months after the official launch. But if you like what you see, they're more than glad to take your $5,000 deposit right now.