In what is becoming a tradition of sorts, Tesla motors has recently dropped another automotive bombshell with the announcement of an all-new, 100% electric semi truck. The Tesla semi sports some very impressive specifications, including an estimated 500-mile range. The superior torque output of electric vehicles is a natural fit for the commercial trucking industry and the Tesla semi exploits this fact with a payload of over 80,000 lbs and a blistering 0 to 60 acceleration of 20 seconds; 40 seconds faster than comparable diesel semi trucks.
The electric big rig was presented in two styles; a flat top, lower profile standard truck and the high-top aero model, which carries the sleek roofline up and over the cargo. Both versions will be rated as Class 8 with capacity for the heaviest loads, but with a modest range of 500 miles, they are expected to be targeted mostly for regional trucking. Although a long-haul version with a sleeper cab is said to be in the works, the regional trucking between ports and distribution centers accounts for about 80% of routes today, so demand is expected to be high for the Tesla Semi. In fact, PepsiCo recently announced an order for 100 of the first production Tesla Semis.
Tesla plans to follow a similar model to the one used in the development of their world class electric passenger vehicles. The impressive efficiency and class leading range is possible through the help of lightweight materials. The pre-production models introduced are constructed of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, however it is expected that production models will be made from aluminum, just as the passenger Tesla vehicles. Tesla also has revealed plans to launch a network of solar charging stations for the Semi, which will be quick-charge high output chargers capable of providing 400 miles of range with 30 minutes of charge. These charging stations can also be implemented at distribution centers and shipping terminals directly, allowing for virtually continuous use, especially on repeated routes.
The cab of the Tesla Semi is just as high tech and austere as one would expect from Tesla. The driver sits in the center of the vehicle, formula one style. The driver’s display is flanked on either side by large touch screen panels that allow a custom view of trip and vehicle metrics. Operators of these trucks will feel more like Captain Kirk piloting the Starship Enterprise. The Tesla Semi dazzles inside and out; on paper and in person. However, the verdict is still out as to whether the trucking community will welcome or shun the electric workhorse.