With the various teasers and talk surrounding Tesla’s foray into the trucking world, we were expecting something fairly big. When Elon Musk presented the Semi’s performance with the curiously unexplained acronym BAMF at the truck's unveiling in Los Angeles, we were slightly amused. But when he listed the truck’s 0-60 time of five seconds, we were pretty much gobsmacked. Granted that’s running bobtail – which for the non-truckers is out there slang for not pulling a trailer. But still, that’s faster than an Alfa Romeo Giuila for crying out loud, never mind every other diesel truck on the road.
That’s neat enough, but how does it get along when saddled with a loaded trailer? Tesla says the Semi will reach the same mark pulling an 80,000-pound trailer in 20 seconds, which is an absolutely phenomenal number for that kind of mass. More importantly for the trucking industry, however, is that the Semi can climb a 5 percent grade – the kind you might find on a fairly steep hill – at a constant 65 mph. Anyone who’s driven a semi through the mountains, or been stuck behind one trying to make the grade will seriously appreciate this.
It gets better. The Semi is said to have a range of 500 miles operating at GVW and highway speeds, which is generally further than a diesel-powered rig can go on a single tank. That’s aided by efficient aerodynamic designs for the rig, including a flat bottom and side flaps to all but close off the gap between truck and trailer. All combined, Tesla says its Semi has a drag coefficient better than that of the the Bugatti Chiron.
Of course, the big issue is recharge time, but Tesla has a high-speed DC megacharger that can fill the batteries back up to a 400-mile range in 30 minutes. With a network of megachargers installed at truck stops and other locations, suddenly the prospect of long-distance all-electric trucking seems very close indeed.
On the driver side of the equation, Tesla gives the Semi a central seating position, with a pair of touch screens flanking the steering wheel. Cameras all over the truck help monitor blind spots, and of course it comes with a suite of driver safety and assist systems. For long-hauling in a convoy, the truck can engage an autonomous mode to follow the lead rig.
As far as price, Tesla makes no mention of total cost but does claim owners can realize a $200,000 savings in fuel over the course of a million miles. That sounds like a ton of driving to mere mortals, but racking up that kind of mileage is par for the course in the trucking world.
Tesla says the Semi will enter production in 2019 and is already taking reservations at $5,000 per truck. If this goes forward as-advertised, we aren’t shy in saying this machine could be a bona-fide game changer in the automotive world – trucking or otherwise.
Gallery: Tesla Semi
The Tesla Semi will deliver a far better experience for truck drivers, while increasing safety and significantly reducing the cost of cargo transport.
Without a trailer, the Tesla Semi achieves 0-60 mph in five seconds, compared to 15 seconds in a comparable diesel truck. It does 0-60 mph in 20 seconds with a full 80,000-pound load, a task that takes a diesel truck about a minute. Most notably for truck drivers and other travelers on the road, it climbs 5% grades at a steady 65 mph, whereas a diesel truck maxes out at 45 mph on a 5% grade. The Tesla Semi requires no shifting or clutching for smooth acceleration and deceleration, and its regenerative braking recovers 98% of kinetic energy to the battery, giving it a basically infinite brake life. Overall, the Semi is more responsive, covers more miles than a diesel truck in the same amount of time, and more safely integrates with passenger car traffic.
Unlike other trucks, the Semi’s cabin is designed specifically around the driver, featuring unobstructed stairs for easier entry and exit, full standing room inside, and a centered driver position for optimal visibility. Two touchscreen displays positioned symmetrically on both sides of the driver provide easy access to navigation, blind spot monitoring and electronic data logging. Built-in connectivity integrates directly with a fleet’s management system to support routing and scheduling, and remote monitoring. Diesel trucks today currently require several third party devices for similar functionality.
Megachargers, a new high-speed DC charging solution, will add about 400 miles in 30 minutes and can be installed at origin or destination points and along heavily trafficked routes, enabling recharging during loading, unloading, and driver breaks.
The Tesla Semi’s all-electric architecture is designed to have a higher safety standard than any other heavy-duty truck on the market, with a reinforced battery that shields the Semi from impact and gives it an exceptionally low center of gravity. Its windshield is made of impact resistant glass. Jackknifing is prevented due to the Semi's onboard sensors that detect instability and react with positive or negative torque to each wheel while independently actuating all brakes. The surround cameras aid object detection and minimize blind spots, automatically alerting the driver to safety hazards and obstacles. With Enhanced Autopilot, the Tesla Semi features Automatic Emergency Braking, Automatic Lane Keeping, Lane Departure Warning, and event recording.
Tesla Semi can also travel in a convoy, where one or several Semi trucks will be able to autonomously follow a lead Semi.
With far fewer moving parts than a diesel truck – no engine, transmission, after-treatment system or differentials to upkeep – the Tesla Semi requires significantly less maintenance. Its battery is similar in composition to the batteries of Tesla energy products and is designed to support repeated charging cycles for over a million miles, while its motors are derived from the motors used in Model 3 and have been validated to last more than one million miles under the most demanding conditions.
Lowest Cost of Ownership
All-in, the Tesla Semi delivers massive savings in energy costs, performance, efficiency and reliability.
TThe biggest immediate cost-advantage comes from savings in energy costs: fully loaded, the Tesla Semi consumes less than two kilowatt-hours of energy per mile and is capable of 500 miles of range at GVW and highway speed, accommodating a wide range of shipping applications given that nearly 80% of freight in the U.S. is moved less than 250 miles. Coupled with the low and stable nature of electricity prices – which average $0.12/kWh in the U.S. and can be significantly less for commercial and industrial users, falling to almost nothing when combined with local solar generation and storage – owners can expect to gain $200,000 or more in savings over a million miles based on fuel costs alone.
Reservations for the Tesla Semi can be made for $5,000 USD per truck. Production in 2019.