Innovation isn’t very useful if it doesn’t save time and money, which is why Tesla’s new battery powered semi-trailer truck, the Tesla Semi, is something worth taking a look at. Despite being an automobile, the Tesla Semi is a product that stands out to us as one aiming to use innovation as a means of improving both economic and environmental factors, whilst reducing the likelihood of car accidents involving trucks.
The Tesla Semi is a semi-trailer truck that was announced in November 2017 with plans to go into production in 2019. Elon Musk (Tesla’s CEO) has announced an estimated range of up to 800km (500 miles) per full charge on the larger battery configuration. The Tesla Semi is a Class 8 vehicle (where the maximum is a Class 9 truck), with a gross vehicle weight rating of almost 15 tonnes (or 33,000 lbs). In typical Tesla fashion, the Semi is being advertised as the “safest, most comfortable truck ever” (which may be slightly ambiguous).
The Tesla Semi provides benefits across economic and environmental factors.
Morgan Stanley has outlined that the Tesla Semi could be 70 percent cheaper to operate than a standard diesel truck. Musk confirmed this by stating it would be “economic suicide” to continue driving diesel trucks.
The environmental benefits may seem obvious, but there is a discussion taking place around this matter presently. A recent study demonstrated that in 10 years, long-haul truck emissions will increase by 29 percent if business continues as usual. Better logistics actually leads to a 10 percent decrease in this figure, showing the benefit of adopting newer technology with improved logistics, as provided by the Tesla Semi’s Autopilot feature (more on this later). Furthermore, electric trucks reduce idling by vehicles, which generally results in greater pollution when the engine is kept running. With an electric truck, any power needed while unloading for instance can be harnessed from the battery, as opposed to an active engine. Similarly, the charge time is quite extraordinary. With up to 800km on a single charge, a driver can add 643km of range in only 30 minutes of charging, enabling the truck to be ready to go upon completion of a break. On the contrary, some critics have highlighted that the energy needed to charge the Tesla Semi could power 3,200 homes in the United Kingdom for 1 hour. This seems rather extraordinary, and prior to release of the vehicle, it is difficult to confirm this figure.
We wouldn’t be covering this story if the Tesla Semi didn’t offer some innovation through its approach to technology, and it's the safety of the vehicle that stood out to us. Tesla’s enhanced Autopilot (effectively its self driving capabilities) offers some unique benefits that intend to reduce the likelihood of potential accidents involving trucks whilst creating improved route optimisation. Within the Tesla Semi, the driver is centered, enabling maximum visibility and control. A low center of gravity ensures protection to counter rollover. Finally, Autopilot helps drivers to avoid collisions with self-driving capabilities providing a safety level advertised as greater than that of a human driver.
It goes without saying that the Tesla Semi offers some extraordinary benefits. It is for this reason that many companies in the food and beverage industry (including PepsiCo, Sysco and Loblaw) have all pre ordered the vehicle. However, as with many Tesla products it’s the ability to live up to these promises that guarantees its adoption, as well as the capability to be mass produced considering recent issues Tesla has experienced in this space.