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Does Electric Powered Semi Truck Unveiling Reveal the Future of Road Freight Haulage

Latest Elon Musk Tesla Project Will Engender Huge InterestShipping News Feature US — WORLDWIDE – Tesla has unveiled its first electric-drive semi-truck[1] in an attempt to challenge the use of diesel[2] in the road haulage industry, with Tesla CEO Elon Musk making huge promises over performance, safety, and reliability. In unveiling the new vehicle, Musk outlined the ways in which the Tesla Semi, officially the name, surpasses the HGVs currently in use, and in the 30 minute long presentation, touted some truly impressive figures. Speaking at the event, Musk said:

“One thing we care about at Tesla is performance.

We wanted a vehicle that feels incredible, that accelerates like nothing else. The Tesla Semi will go 0-60 in 5 seconds that is by itself or with a trailer. At 80,000 pounds maximum gross vehicle weight, the most amount of weight you can carry on a US highway, it will go 0-60 in 20 seconds.

“What about going up a hill? The best diesel trucks can only do 45 mph up a 5% grade. Tesla Semi can do 65 mph up a 5% grade.

That’s 65 mph continuous at max gross. What this means is that, if you’re pulling a load over the Rockies or some mountainous terrain or up a hill, you’re earning per mile. Earning 50% per mile more than if you’re in a diesel truck.

That’s a gigantic difference. “One of the biggest questions we’ve been asked about electric trucks is how far can they go?

500 mile range at maximum weight at highway speed, 60 mph. That’s the worst case scenario.”

Musk continued by explaining what his interpretation of a 500 mile range meant, stating that, with the vast majority of routes under 250 miles, it means that the driver can go to their destination and back on a single charge. The company achieved this through various means, of which one is the design of vehicle. Musk explained:

“We designed the Tesla truck to be like a bullet. So whereas a normal diesel truck is designed to be like a barn wall, this is a bullet. You can see this in the drag coefficient.

The Tesla Semi has a 0.36 drag coefficient. By way of comparison, a Bugatti Chiron, which is a £2 million super-car, has a 0.38 drag coefficient. So this has a better drag co-efficient than a super-car.

You can see that in the design. We achieve that with the bullet-shaped nose. We also have side-flaps that map to whatever trailer you’re pulling, and close the gap.

This makes a huge difference to the drag co-efficient. “The bottom of the truck is also completely flat so that air can flow straight through. These are things you don’t see on any other trucks and it gives us an incredible highway range, one of the key factors.

We also have 4 independent motors, that’s a motor on each of the rear wheels and an independent front suspension so it’s incredibly comfortable to drive this truck.” Some big differences can be found even in the driver’s seat. In the Tesla Semi, the driver will be seated centrally with the aim of having complete visibility of the road and the surroundings.

Commenting on the changes as it relates to the drivers, Musk said: “What does it feel like to drive this truck? It’s amazing.

You’re not constantly shifting gears, it has one gear. It’s smooth just like driving a Tesla [car], it’s just bigger. Its super easy to drive and it feels incredibly responsive, unlike any truck you’ve ever driven.

The point of view you have is also incredible. We put the driver in the centre so the drivers actually in the centre of the truck so you’re positioned like you’re in a race car. You have complete visibility of the road and all the surroundings.

It’s a beautiful, spacious interior, you can stand up inside. It just feels incredible to drive, incomparably better than any other truck on the road. I can drive this thing and I have no idea how to drive a semi.

There also a little trunk in the front. “[Diesel trucks] today are a clutter of third party devices, very difficult to use. It requires integration, insulation, these things don’t talk to each other, it’s a pain in the neck and it has significant add-on costs, where as in a Tesla Semi, all of this is included.

Everything just works. The moment you get the truck, it’s got everything. It will seamlessly integrate with all the fleet systems, the things that are really important to the trucking industry.”

Throughout the design process of the truck, Tesla claims it has paid special attention to the safety of the driver and other road users and pedestrians. Musk continued: “If you’ve got 80,000 pounds moving at 60 miles an hour, it’s a very dangerous thing.

Every truck we sell will have autopilot as standard. The truck will automatically brake and it will also automatically ‘lane keep’ as well so even if you’re in the truck and you have a medical emergency, the truck will stay in lane and gradually come to a halt. If it doesn’t hear a response from you, it will call the emergency services.

“With that central position, you are in a very safe position, even if you were to collide with another semi, you have a low centre of gravity that gives you really good handling. It means the probability of a roll-over is massively reduced. “Jack-knifing is usually the worst nightmare of a trucker.

How do you stop your vehicle from jack-knifing if you’re in difficult conditions? [This] truck will automatically stop jack-knifing because it’s got independent motors on each wheel. It will automatically adjust the torque on each wheel so that jack-knifing is impossible. Your worst nightmare is gone with this truck.”

Musk went on to make even more bold claims about the Tesla Semi, guaranteeing that the truck will not break down for a ‘million miles’. Speaking on why he’s confident on such a claim, the CEO said: “We are guaranteeing that [the Tesla Semi] will not break down for a million miles because it has four independent motors.

You could lose 2 of those 4 motors and the truck will still keep going. In fact, even If you only have 2 of the four motors active it will still beat a diesel truck. “Brakes are big deal for trucks.

You’ve got to stop 80,000 pounds, it’s not easy. That a lot of brake-wear. With an electric motor you can turn your brakes into generators.

Every time you brake, that kinetic energy of braking goes straight into the battery pack instead of wearing down a brake pad, so the pad basically lasts forever. You don’t have to worry about transmission. There’s no transmission, there are no emissions, no scrubbers, no differentials, and, this is the feature I like best, thermos-nuclear explosion proof glass.

It can survive a nuclear explosion or you can get a full refund!” The Tesla app will also give users full access to all the truck information, including remote diagnostics and preventative maintenance, the truck will anticipate when it needs maintenance and will inform users ahead of time. Musk eventually got to pricing but stopped short of giving actual figures.

He spoke greatly of the benefits the Tesla Semi against the costs of a diesel truck, stating that diesel vehicles will be 20% more expensive per mile, after accounting for all the costs including the lease, insurance, and maintenance. He wrapped up the session saying: “From day one, a Tesla truck will beat a diesel on economics.

This is the worst case scenario, so it gets better than this. This is taking max vehicle gross, going at 60mph and its assuming £2.50 [per gallon diesel] gasoline price. We’re guaranteeing a 7cent kilowatt [per hour] wholesale price.

These are real numbers. It only gets better than this. This is a worst case scenario.

“We are confident that this product is better in every way in a future standpoint that wins on economics against diesel trucks in a worst case scenario and that defeats rail in a convoy scenario. Production begins 2019.” When Elon Musk gave a Ted Talk earlier this year[3], he discussed his vision of the future of the transportation industry, during which he spoke of the Tesla Semi and how it could revolutionise the sector.

In response researchers[4] from Carnegie Mellon University analysed the logistics of battery powered trucks[5], which put the cost of operating a 600-mile capable li-ion battery pack at somewhere between £320,000 and £400,000 and a ‘beyond Li-ion’ battery pack placed in a ‘well-designed’ vehicle with optimal values of design parameters mentioned before, a 600-mile capable battery pack would cost £250,000 though these figures are based on price on a much higher cost per kilowatt-hour with a mean value of £190 /kWh.

This however is not even counting the cost of the actual truck.

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References

  1. ^ electric-drive semi-truck (www.tesla.com)
  2. ^ challenge the use of diesel (www.handyshippingguide.com)
  3. ^ Ted Talk earlier this year (www.youtube.com)
  4. ^ researchers (twitter.com)
  5. ^ logistics of battery powered trucks (pubs.acs.org)



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