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Tesla Storms The Trucking Industry Revealing Battery-Powered Truck

Tesla Storms The Trucking Industry Revealing Battery-Powered Truck

Tesla is setting out on another quest: to remake the multi-billion-dollar trucking industry.

Tesla unveiled a prototype for a battery-powered, nearly self-driving semi-truck that the company said would prove more efficient and less costly to operate than the diesel trucks that now haul goods across the country. And of course, it will emit no exhaust.

Mr. Musk claimed it would have a single-change range of 500 miles, greater than many analysts had expected and enough to serve on many typical trucking routes.

The truck can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in five seconds without a trailer, and in 20 seconds when carrying a maximum load of 80,000 pounds, less than a third of the time required for a diesel truck, he said.

Mr. Musk said Tesla expects to begin producing the truck by the end of 2019. He gave no price but hinted that it would be costly. “Tesla stuff is expensive,” Mr. Musk said, drawing another cheer from the crowd, gathered at an airfield outside of Los Angeles.

But he also said the electric truck would be less expensive to operate, in part because it has fewer components that require regular maintenance (no engine, transmission or drive shaft). Instead, the truck, called the Tesla Semi, is powered by a giant battery beneath the cab. It has two rear axles, each outfitted with two electric motors, one for each wheel. Its acceleration and uphill speeds will allow it to cover more distance in less time than diesel trucks, he added.

As a result, Tesla is estimating it will cost $1.26 per mile to operate, compared with $1.51 a mile for a diesel truck. The cost can fall further — to 85 cents a mile, according to Tesla — if groups of trucks travel together in convoys, which reduces wind drag. “This beats rail,” Mr. Musk said.

In typical Tesla fashion, the truck is a sharp departure from industry norms. The cabin is spacious enough for a driver and passenger to stand. The driver’s seat is in the center of the cab, not on the left side. It is flanked by two laptop-size video screens providing navigation and scheduling data as well as images of blind spots and other areas around the truck.

It will be equipped with radar sensors, cameras and processors to enable drivers to use a version of Autopilot, the advanced driver-assistance system featured in Tesla cars such as the Model S and the new Model 3. Autopilot can automatically steer, accelerate and brake for other vehicles and obstacles, although drivers must keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel while using the feature.

Mr. Musk said Tesla envisions building a network of superchargers for trucks across the United States and other countries. He gave few details but said they would be solar-powered. “ So your truck will be running on sunshine,” he said.

“I think the electric, autonomous truck market is a very promising proposition,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst at Autotrader.com. “One of my concerns with Tesla is they have way too much on their plate. They can’t over-promise and under-deliver on a truck.”

Tesla Truck

Competitors have already begun testing electric trucks and self-driving technology.

While Tesla jumped out ahead of established automakers with its electric cars and technologies like its Autopilot system, it faces a much different landscape in trucks, Ms. Krebs said. Tesla doesn’t have experience in the truck market, and it is up against formidable competitors, like Daimler, that have a built-in customer base, she said.

“The critical thing with trucks is that it is a work tool,” she added. “It has to work all the time. It’s not like a sports car and I have something else in the garage to drive if it’s in maintenance or whatever.”

Source: New York Times 

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