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ELON MUSK HAS always dreamed big, and tonight he showed off his biggest reverie yet: the fully electric Tesla Semi. Powered by a massive battery and capable of hauling 80,000 pounds, it can ramble 500 miles between charges. It’ll even drive itself—on the highway, at least.1
And Musk promises production will start in 2019.
In the hours before the official reveal, Tesla showed not one, but two trucks to journalists ahead of the unveiling: a standard model and another with an aerodynamics package. There were tense moments leading up to the reveal, with Tesla employees buzzing around nervously.
Both fans and investors watching the rollout of its first mass market car intensely, and now they are tuning into see a truck, because it’s Tesla. The usual audience for freight innovation is far more niche. But when Elon Musk talks trucks, his fans whistle and shout.
The streamlined look of the Tesla Semi truck is made possible by the battery pack mounted under the floor of the cab, and the driver’s seat mounted significantly more forward than of those the Freightliner or International trucks. Behind the cab, the two rear axles have electric motors attached on either side, for four in total. They also come off of existing Tesla models. The design gives the Tesla Semi truck a lower center of gravity than diesel-powered models, something the company has said about its cars relative to rivals with internal combustion engines. While this is unlikely to make a semi truck handle like a sports car, it may some way towards increasing high-speed stability.
Inside, a driver’s seat is centrally mounted with a passenger’s behind and to the right of it. This contrasts with the conventional trucks that have two seats mounted side-by-side, but with little room left in the cab for other storage. Tesla designers say they maximized the space left over from the battery pack’s positioning to create more space to walk around inside, as well as creating more storage — something decided after the company spoke to commercial truck drivers. There isn’t a version with sleeping accommodations, however, but it sounded like a future model change might include this feature.
Two screens dominate either side of the steering wheel, also from the Model 3. On the Semi truck, however, the screen to the left controls vehicle functions and settings specific to the trunk portion, while the one on the right has more typical navigation and radio controls. A Tesla official indicated those could be made more configurable in the future.
The Truck for the Job
Musk believes that going after the big boys is the best way to have a real impact on climate change. In the five years since Tesla started producing its Model S sedan, it has sold about 200,000 cars. The US has more than 250 million passenger cars on the road, making the impact of this, roughly, zero. Even if Tesla scales up production of its “affordable” Model 3 sedan, it will still be a very long time before the Silicon Valley automaker can change the way humanity moves about enough for any dip in emissions to register as more than a blip.
Trucks offer a more effective way to do that, because they are particularly toxic. “Heavy-duty vehicles make up a small fraction of the vehicles on the road, but a large fraction of their emissions,” says Jimmy O’Dea, who studies clean vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In California, that category (which includes buses as well as trucks) accounts for 7 percent of total vehicles, but produces 20 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and a third of all NOx emissions (those are the ones linked to asthma attacks and respiratory illnesses).
Every truck you move with electricity instead of diesel has an outsize effect on the health of the planet and everything living on it. 18-wheelers are the ultimate force multiplier.
Musk has done the math. And while lots of players are moving into electric trucking space, none have the star power of Tesla, the kind of clout that makes the whole country pay attention.
While there are large, conventional truck mirrors mounted outside the vehicle, each interior screen shows images of the sides of the truck through cameras mounted under the exterior mirrors. Tesla says those are part of the Autopilot system (there are also foward-facing cameras mounted at the base of the windscreen), but they will likely help drivers get used to sitting in the middle of the cab.
After the reveal, it’s clear Tesla hopes its innovative packaging and approach will resonate with truck drivers and fleet managers who are tired of the way the vehicles have been designed for decades. After all, it won’t be alone in the electric truck market. Companies with experience in large trucks, such as Cummins and Daimler, have already announced plans for electrified models, with immense pressure coming from cities and countries anxious to reduce air pollution in heavily populated areas.
The appearance of a large truck that breaks into completely uncharted territory for Tesla comes at a time when its last big announcement, the Model 3 sedan, has yet to be delivered to the roughly 500,000 customers who’ve paid $1,000 to reserve the car. Tesla and Musk have been on the defensive over the last several weeks after admitting to “production hell” at the Fremont assembly plant and the Nevada Gigafactory, where the batteries are assembled. Model 3 production hurdles were one of the reasons given when in October Musk postponed the Semi truck reveal to this evening. Tesla also reported earlier this month its worst financial quarter ever, losing nearly as much money so far this year as it did in all of 2016.
What Tesla has done, however, is shown that it wants to invigorate a segment, rather than just make something to comply with more stringent emissions regulations. Through the design and packaging alone, Tesla is applying some of its most notable brand cues to a type of vehicle it’s never made before. And in the process, it’s trying to do for heavy duty commercial vehicles what it did for luxury cars — plough forward in its own lane.
The reveal event was held in the shadow of two of Musk’s other pet projects: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and a mile-long hyperloop tunnel. Both served as reminders that this was no ordinary company, and no ordinary truck.
culled from: wired.com , reverie