Tesla wants to electrify big trucks, adding to its ambitions (Update)

Tesla wants to electrify big trucks, adding to its ambitions
This photo provided by Tesla shows the front of the new electric semitractor-trailer unveiled on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The move fits with Tesla CEO Elon Musk's stated goal for the company of accelerating the shift to sustainable transportation. (Tesla via AP)

After more than a decade of making cars and SUVs—and, more recently, solar panels—Tesla Inc. wants to electrify a new type of vehicle: big trucks.

The company unveiled its new electric semitractor-trailer Thursday night near its design center in Hawthorne, California.

CEO Elon Musk said the semi is capable of traveling 500 miles (804 kilometers) on an electric charge—even with a full 80,000-pound (36,287-kilogram) load—and will cost less than a diesel semi considering fuel savings, lower maintenance and other factors. Musk said customers can put down a $5,000 deposit for the semi now and production will begin in 2019.

"We're confident that this is a product that's better in every way from a feature standpoint," Musk told a crowd of Tesla fans gathered for the unveiling. Musk didn't reveal the semi's price.

The truck will have Tesla's Autopilot system, which can maintain a set speed and slow down automatically in traffic. It also has a system that automatically keeps the vehicle in its lane. Musk said several Tesla semis will be able to travel in a convoy, autonomously following each other.

Musk said Tesla plans a worldwide network of solar-powered "megachargers" that could get the trucks back up to 400 miles of range after charging for only 30 minutes.

Tesla wants to electrify big trucks, adding to its ambitions
This photo provided by Tesla shows the interior overview of the new electric semitractor-trailer unveiled on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The move fits with Tesla CEO Elon Musk's stated goal for the company of accelerating the shift to sustainable transportation. (Tesla via AP)

The move fits with Musk's stated goal for the company of accelerating the shift to sustainable transportation. Trucks account for nearly a quarter of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to government statistics.

But the semi also piles on more chaos at the Palo Alto, California-based company. Tesla is way behind on production of the Model 3, a new lower-cost sedan, with some customers facing waits of 18 months or more. It's also ramping up production of solar panels after buying Solar City Corp. last year. Tesla is working on a pickup truck and a lower-cost SUV and negotiating a new factory in China. Meanwhile, the company posted a record quarterly loss of $619 million in its most recent quarter.

On Thursday night, Tesla surprised fans with another product: An updated version of its first sports car, the Roadster. Tesla says the new Roadster will have 620 miles of range and a top speed of 250 mph (402 kph). The car, coming in 2020, will have a base price of $200,000.

Musk, too, is being pulled in many directions. He leads rocket maker SpaceX and is dabbling in other projects, including high-speed transit, artificial intelligence research and a new company that's digging tunnels beneath Los Angeles to alleviate traffic congestion.

"He's got so much on his plate right now. This could present another distraction from really just making sure that the Model 3 is moved along effectively," said Bruce Clark, a senior vice president and automotive analyst at Moody's.

Tesla wants to electrify big trucks, adding to its ambitions
This photo provided by Tesla shows the front of the new electric semitractor-trailer unveiled on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The move fits with Tesla CEO Elon Musk's stated goal for the company of accelerating the shift to sustainable transportation. (Tesla via AP)

Tesla's semi is venturing into an uncertain market. Demand for electric trucks is expected to grow over the next decade as the U.S., Europe and China all tighten their emissions regulations. Electric truck sales totaled 4,100 in 2016, but are expected to grow to more than 70,000 in 2026, says Navigant Research.

But most of that growth is expected to be for smaller, medium-duty haulers like garbage trucks or delivery vans. Those trucks can have a more limited range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) or less, which requires fewer expensive batteries. They can also be fully charged overnight.

Long-haul semi trucks, on the other hand, would be expected to go greater distances, and that would be challenging. Right now, there's little charging infrastructure on global highways. Without Tesla's promised fast-charging, even a mid-sized truck would likely require a two-hour stop, cutting into companies' efficiency and profits, says Brian Irwin, managing director of the North American industrial group for the consulting firm Accenture.

Irwin says truck companies will have to watch the market carefully, because tougher regulations on diesels or an improvement in charging infrastructure could make electric trucks more viable very quickly. Falling battery costs also will help make electric trucks more appealing compared to diesels.

But even lower costs won't make trucking a sure bet for Tesla. It faces stiff competition from long-trusted brands like Daimler AG, which unveiled its own semi prototype last month.

Tesla wants to electrify big trucks, adding to its ambitions
This photo provided by Tesla shows the new electric semitractor-trailer unveiled on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The move fits with Tesla CEO Elon Musk's stated goal for the company of accelerating the shift to sustainable transportation. (Tesla via AP)

"These are business people, not fans, and they will need convinced that this truck is better for their balance sheet than existing technology. It probably is, based on the specs provided, but this isn't necessarily a slam dunk," said Rebecca Lindland, an executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

Musk said Tesla will guarantee the semi's powertrain for one million miles to help alleviate customers' concerns.


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Nov 16, 2017
Just a PR stunt hey eikka? Ditto with Daimler, international, Cummins, who else?

20 tons, 220mi range for first gen. Not exactly short haul eh?

Nov 16, 2017
What is the energy density of one kilo of lithium batteries as a posed to
one kilo of diesel fuel?

Nov 16, 2017
20 tons, 220mi range for first gen. Not exactly short haul eh?
not a bad range especially for a dedicated route or port haulers

but for OTR you will need a 40-ton max rating as this is often seen in a fully loaded 53' trailer
plus gears or some limiting mechanism for mountain driving

Nov 16, 2017
Batteries can't compete yet for energy density, one company said it was 20,000 pounds of battery for 600 mile day, vs 900 lbs diesel, which would last a couple days. Electric is used all over industry though, so I hope he can find a market niche.

Nov 16, 2017
Just watched the unveil though, Tesla saying 500 miles on charge with 1/2 hour charge time for 400 more miles, so I don't think this needs a niche, though they didn't mention weight.

Nov 17, 2017
Article also:
500 miles (804 kilometers) on an electric charge—even with a full 80,000-pound (36,287-kilogram) load

Nov 17, 2017
Article also:
500 miles (804 kilometers) on an electric charge—even with a full 80,000-pound (36,287-kilogram) load
the more i consider commercial driving regs in the US, the more i think it may well have been better to leave the 200 to 250-mile range

the 500-mile range will only benefit team drivers, and really it's not that big of a benefit

Nov 17, 2017
I checked around for average driving ranges for truck in germany . Closest I could get was a forum entry where about 20 people replied. 18 of which say they only have sub 500km ranges (and about half of that say they only have sub 200km ranges per day). With the highest reply being 1000km/day and a one-off peak of 1700km.
So the mileage Tesla is aiming for seems to cover a large percentage of the use cases. Particularly given the recharge times where it makes sense for fixed customers to install their own recharge facilities which can be hooked up during loading/unloading operations.

On another note: The roadster they presented looks pretty sweet. Alas, at 200k it is outside my price range (even accounting for the savings it incurs over its lifetime)

Nov 17, 2017
Musk pointed out one of the many advantages of EV trucks -- regenerative braking. Instead of using conventional brakes, which transform motion-energy into heat and worn brake components, nearly all of the braking will be done by generators which recycle the energy to the batteries. (Conventional brakes are also fitted, mostly for safety backup.)

Nov 17, 2017
"On another note: The roadster they presented looks pretty sweet. Alas, at 200k it is outside my price range (even accounting for the savings it incurs over its lifetime)"

@antialias- I completely agree. But even though $200,000 might be out of our price range, that is very reasonable for the guys who buy the fastest Porsches and Fiararris. The 1.9 second 0-60 mph will leave the supercar manufacturers little choice but to go electric, to avoid the "humiliation" of being beaten by a $200,000 four-seat Tesla.


Nov 17, 2017
So the mileage Tesla is aiming for seems to cover a large percentage of the use cases
@A_P
pretty much

the average CDL team driver will go from 200 to 350 miles at a time before swapping to the second driver, which should last around 5 hours behind the wheel

a solo driver will do the same and requires a break of at least half hour before continuing for the next 5-hour stretch. distance is determined by the speed limit, and there must be at least one break in said 5-hour set (this is where some drivers doctor the logs)


Nov 17, 2017
The 1.9 second 0-60 mph will leave the supercar manufacturers little choice but to go electric, to avoid the "humiliation" of being beaten by a $200,000 four-seat Tesla.


No need to go that far. Go to youtube and look for the Tesla Racing Channel...it's a guy (and sometimes his dad) using a stock Tesla S (no upgrades besides stripping out some of the interior and later on using racing tires) to wipe the floor with just about anything on the dragstrips and in private street races. Totally hilarious.

https://www.youtu...uNZzz2iQ

Muscle cars, Exotics, Kitted out vehicles...they stand no chance.

Nov 17, 2017
Muscle cars, Exotics, Kitted out vehicles...they stand no chance.


Very few cars can push out 700+ kW of power to the wheels because there's absolutely no sense in putting that much power into a production vehicle - too many compromizes necessary- but at the same time it's just a gimmick because the Tesla can only launch once: the battery has to be 95+% state of charge or the "ludicurous mode" won't work.

There's no other car on the road where the power output depends on how much fuel you have in the tank.

Just a PR stunt hey eikka? Ditto with Daimler, international, Cummins, who else?


With Tesla? Definitely. Wait two years and see them break their promise - again.

Talk is cheap, and that goes for everyone.

Nov 17, 2017
The problem with the idea of the megacharger is that it's a totally ridiculous concept.

A truck needs about 10x the batteries compared to a car, so it also needs 10x the charging power. A Model S requires 200 kW to charge in 30 minutes, so a "megacharger" would require 2 Megawatts per car.

Where I live, there's a village nearby with a population of around 10,000 residents and a hydroelectric power station that has a peak power output of 63 MW. If one Tesla truck would stop by to charge, it would show up like adding 1,000 new residents to the town in an instant.

There would be alarm bells ringing at the power station and automatic breakers tripping all over the place unless the trucker calls in ahead and warns them that they're going to drop this load on the grid. That amount of power isn't something you just switch on and off like you do a lightbulb - you got to coordinate it with the utility so you don't break stuff.

Nov 17, 2017
Very few cars can push out 700+ kW of power to the wheels because there's absolutely no sense in putting that much power into a production vehicle - too many compromizes necessary- but at the same time it's just a gimmick because the Tesla can only launch once: the battery has to be 95+% state of charge or the "ludicurous mode" won't work
More dumb guessing.

Customer demo rides.
https://youtu.be/izhYXO9wKz0

-Sub-2sec 0-60... "This car has been doing this all night" @4:50

-That's a few dozen with no recharge.

Nov 17, 2017
The 85 kWh battery pack weighs 1,200 lb (540 kg)
Look, eikka, you've already shown you dont know enough about the subject to comment on it intelligently.

Here

"Again, more words, more hype, no results. People are "looking into it" a lot, but because trucks needs 10x the batteries compared to a car, it's just not working out."
https://techxplor...nia.html

-Remember? And yet at least 8 major manufacturers are all scrambling to bring these things to production. Musk is only the first.

Just heard on the radio - tesla going into production by 2019, Wal-Mart to be one of the first customers.

Nov 17, 2017
There would be alarm bells ringing at the power station and automatic breakers tripping all over the place
"Musk said Tesla plans a worldwide network of solar-powered "megachargers" that could get the trucks back up to 400 miles of range after charging for only 30 minutes."

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