First Look At Tesla’s Electric Semi-Truck, Which Can Be Driven Like A Sports Car

Tesla Semi

APR 28 2017 BY JAY COLE 86

Tesla CEO Elon Musk was in Vancouver giving a TED talk today, mostly centered around his/The Boring Company for building underground transportation (check out details and nifty promo video on The Boring Company here), but he also found the time to talk about about Tesla’s upcoming electric Semi-Truck project.

More specifically, he released the first image of the Tesla Semi Truck, and so far…so good.

Tesla CEO spent some time talking about his company’s Semi-Truck program around his other new project – The Boring Company (details – video)

Musk says the truck, which will be unveiled officially this September, will out pace any diesel offering on the market today; and that is for both torque AND range.

“With the Tesla semi we want to show that an electric truck can out torque any diesel semi.”

Further to that, apparently the Semi-Truck is “spry” and can be driven like a sports car; something we reserve the right to hold judgement on!

“This will be a very spry truck. You can drive this around like a sports car,” Musk said from Vancouver

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86 Comments on "First Look At Tesla’s Electric Semi-Truck, Which Can Be Driven Like A Sports Car"

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I am not sure I ever want to be on a Highway next to a semi that is driven like a sportscar…

Most sports cars I see are driven around slowly, trying to get looks, so I guess it would be OK w/me. 😀

I’m sure the one Elon drove wasn’t full cargo haul. Was it?

I’m very excited about this truck. I did a little more googling to try and figure out what miles per kwh a big truck like this would get. The numbers come out in the range of .5 to .56 miles per kwh.

So if you want 600 miles of range we are talking on the order of 1100 kwh pack. ie 11 P100D battery packs.

At 90$/kwh that makes the pack cost somewhere around 100,000$ and new class 8 semis can run up to 180K$ so that’s a pretty expensive battery.

I’m dying to see how Elon engineers his way around this.

Yes, it is going to have to have a huge battery pack, probably well over 1000 kWh. My “napkin math” figure assumed an even higher energy use than yours; 2.4 kWh/mile, which would be 0.417 miles/kWh. My “napkin math” analysis showed that Tesla would need an 1800 kWh pack for a ~750 mile range when pulling a fully loaded trailer at freeway speed.

But then, I didn’t assume a significant improvement in lowering drag, so your figure may turn out to be closer than mine.

And recharging in »1hour at 1MW.

And what’s that little cost detail about Demand Charges?

These things would almost certainly need a Rex too. And I’m not thinking a BMW style motor bike engine.

Mike,
I think we can assume that Tesla’s solution will be pure electric….just IMO

IMHO demand charges will go away over time. The only reason there are demand charges now is because the power companies aren’t used to having to provide power on the basis of swiftly fluctuating demand. As the EV revolution progresses and high-power EV fast (or superfast) charging becomes commonplace, the utilities will have to adjust to the new reality.

It’s like claiming back in the horse-and-buggy era that the average person could never drive a motorcar because there were so few paved roads and no place to park a large number of motorcars.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

The power companies are definitely used to providing power to a fluctuating demand!! It’s the SUPPLY side that is changing drastically with the move to renewable sources that can’t simply be turned up and down at will.

Heh.

Okay, I should have said the power companies aren’t used to having to provide large amounts of power coupled with unpredictable and swiftly fluctuating demand. In fact, they impose demand charges specifically to discourage that.

Power companies need to install their own large-scale energy storage systems (banks of batteries, or whatever) to deal with these sorts of fluctuations in demand. We’re going to see more and more of that, because the ability to instantly stabilize grid fluctuations and provide a surge of power over the period of just a few minutes — without having to spin up a standby natural-gas-fired power plant — will save them money.

And that’s one reason why I say these demand charges will mostly disappear over time.

But these semis and, indeed, all Tesla EVs (at least) will inevitably not charge directly from the grid but from big dollops of Powerpacks whose demand (aside from their own renewable sources) from the grid will therefore be much more steady.

Few Teslae today are being charged from battery packs. Even the battery packs at Tesla Supercharger stations — stations which provide less than 10% of the kWh used to charge Teslae — use battery packs only to smooth out spikes in demand at the station, not to provide the majority of the energy.

BEV semi tractor battery packs are going to be expensive enough, and the cost of replacement is going to be substantial. What trucking company is going to want to double that cost by buying stationary battery packs which will then charge the BEV semi tractors’ battery packs? And what would be the advantage of doing so?

In the short term, a fleet terminal that charges BEV semi tractors might want to use a large stationary battery installation to smooth out power demand, just as Tesla Supercharger stations do today but on a larger scale. However in the long term, as I pointed out, the use of stationary energy storage to smooth out power demand is going to shift to the utilities. There’s no good reason for individual commercial and industrial installations to buy for their own individual use what the utility can provide on a much more cost-effective basis.

Demand charges reflect the very real cost of upsizing the local distribution system and of handling frequency and phase disruptions that occur when large loads suddenly appear and disappear.

Also, what makes you think a utility can deploy storage more cost-effectively than a truck stop? The truck stop knows its needs precisely and can control behavior if needed.

I disagree about the demand charges. If anything time-of-use charging will likely become more widespread so that the economics on the retail side match up better with the economics on the wholesale side.

Cool PMPU you are into it also. It’s a fascinating problem statement and I must admit I have no idea how he will solve it.

One thing is clear though he will have to make another SC network just for trucks woudn’t you think?

Even then the power requirements go sky high so more batteries are needed at each SC. Which is good because he has some.

…or maybe a lane on the freeway where the truck charges without stopping??

Who knows?

Only Elon

I believe Tesla’s BEV semi tractor will be only a concept vehicle, so no need for any Semi Supercharger network this year or next.

But that is something that our society will have to figure out how to build in the future. The ProTerra 500 kW electric bus charger is a step in that direction, one that is already in use today.

Personally I don’t see any engineering barrier to high-power charging. Nobody is going around claiming the ProTerra charger is some sort of revolutionary tech. It’s merely a matter of applying existing electrical engineering for high current and high voltage; tech which has been around for decades or maybe even over a century by now.

https://www.proterra.com/technology/chargers/

Maybe this is where the battery swap concept comes into play? Maybe a small crane swapping out power packs located behind the cab… or lining the bottoms of trailers?

You Guys have to calculate 100 grand à year in fuel à year at least .thèse trucks dont get much mile to the gallon.in canada some trucks use well over 200 thousand dollars worth of fuel in a single Year!

Not quite sure where your math is coming from, I work for a trucking company. A solo driver averages between 2000 and 2500 miles a week, and most of our trucks average 6.5 MPG. So if we use the higher mileage estimate of 2500 miles a week, that is 130,000 miles a year, and if you figure 6 MPG @ $2.50 a gallon, that’s about $52,000 a year for fuel.

A team truck might use $100,000 of fuel per year at today’s fuel prices, or a solo driver when fuel was $4.50 a gallon.

Any way you look at it, if it cost $.30 cents a mile for electricity to move the truck, those fuel cost savings will add up in a hurry, and even faster as fuel costs increase.

The calculations for Sweden:

Average truck distance 150 000 km/year (official statistics)

Average truck use 5 liters per 10km

Diesel price currently 14,20 sek/liter.

Equals 1 065 000 sek or 120 000 USD.

Electricity would cost ~150k-200k sek or about 17k-22,5k USD.

A net saving of about $100k per year.

That easily gives you 500 kWh (@$200/kWh) with a massive profit for Tesla, in a single year of driving.

Gas in Canada is about $5.00 per gal.

TimE:

You know 6.5 mpg is not a latest and greatest truck anymore. If you intend to save on fuel no matter what, you can get something closer to supertruck with over 10 mpg, and I suspect the premium will be much less than premium for extra tons of batteries, lost weight capacity, and megawatt level power supply. Or if you have short or medium distance fleet and don’t mind cost, you have Hydrogenics in Canada that can provide electric truck conversions right now. Natural gas is also an option.

I don’t see how it can be practical to load a truck with 1100 kwh of batteries to achieve a 600+ mile range. The cost and weight make me think it would be more practical to aim for a 3-400 mile range instead. Then have something like a 600 kwh battery with quick charge capacity at something like 1 MW. But that isn’t going to be a compelling product when current diesel semis can go well over a 1000 miles between fill-ups.

I don’t see how Tesla is going to compete on range with a big rig that holds 300 gallons of fuel and gets 5+ mpg. Is he going to jam a 2 MWH battery into one? LOL

Believe it or not, there’s plenty of room for a 2 MWh battery once you take out the huge diesel motor, 18-speed transmission, etc. The problem with a ~2 MWh battery pack isn’t the size. The problems are the weight (enough to cut into the maximum load a semi tractor-trailer rig can haul), the cost, the amortized replacement cost over years, and the recharging time. Once again, here is my own “napkin math” analysis, for those who have not read it already: ========================= BALLPARK FEASIBILITY CASE FOR BEV SEMI TRUCK (revised April 14, 2017) FACTS & FIGURES A modern diesel semi pulling a load gets 6.5 MPG; therefore uses 0.1538 gallons of diesel per mile 1 gallon of diesel contains 40.7 kWh of energy 1 gallon of diesel varies in weight between 6.85lbs. and 7.5lbs per U.S. gallon, depending on temperature. (I’m going to use the figure of 7.1 lbs/gallon) diesel semi typical engine weight 2880 lbs Eaton Fuller 18-speed transmission weight 738 lbs Tesla Roadster upgrade battery pack: 70 kWh in ~10 cubic feet standard sized semi trailer dimensions: 110″ high x 96″ wide, or 9.167′ x 8′ DOT weight limit for a six-axle semi tractor-trailer: 80,000 lbs Typical… Read more »

Hey PP, can you redo these workings using the Metric system.

I’ve set forth all my assumptions and premises quite clearly, so others can plug in their own figures if they want to, and get their own conclusions, which may be different than mine. You can do the metric conversions as easily as I can.

Anyway, the analysis here is for American highways. I presume European, Australian et al regulations use different figures, such as different maximum weight limits.

Hey Miggy, maybe you could do it for the rest of us?

Interesting ballpark analysis. I think however a pack cost of 180$/kWh is too pessimistic. If we believe Tesla when it claimed long ago it was at 190$/kWh, the move to 2170 format and chemistry tweaks to increase energy density and a new pack layout to the same end should bring down the cost by more than a third. While you say this is likely a concept, Musk has said they’ll make a semi and followed up with saying “the semi” will be revealed in September. I doubt he can get away with calling it a concept then. But we can agree that it’s probably not going into production in 2018… Which means that, if Model 3 goes well, scale will reduce the pack cost further before building a semi might happen. Chemistry tweaks will also likely continue to decrease cost a few percent a year. I actually think you can adjust the pack cost to $110/kWh without being in wishful thinking territory. 1800 * 110 is nearly 200k, but the components saved are also not cheap, so the initial premium is perhaps down to $120k or so. And that should mean four years or so to break even thanks to… Read more »
“…the move to 2170 format and chemistry tweaks to increase energy density and a new pack layout to the same end should bring down the cost by more than a third.” It’s quite possible I’ve overestimated battery cost, especially since Tesla (just like all other EV makers) refuses to disclose its costs or wholesale prices. You’re right, we have seen claims from Elon that Gigafactory batteries will reduce the cell cost by at least 35%. The problem is that people assume that 35% is in comparison to current Tesla/Panasonic batteries. I don’t; I assume it’s in comparison to the batteries Tesla was using in 2012, when the Model S was new. So if I’m right, then the estimated $180/kWh price already assumes most of the price reduction you’re talking about. If we get some solid information that Tesla has reduced the pack-level costs substantially below that $180/kWh figure, using the new 2170 cells, then I will adjust my estimate accordingly. Realistically, I do expect some reduction in price, but I’m not going to plug what would amount to a wild guess into my estimate for figure so critical to the conclusion. But please feel free to play around with the… Read more »
“…the initial premium is perhaps down to $120k or so. And that should mean four years or so to break even thanks to the much lower running costs – two years in Europe where fossil fuels aren’t cheaper than bottled water. Even with financing costs this is a no-brainer investment.” The problem you’re ignoring here is the battery pack replacement cost. For trucks which are driven long distances almost every day, BEV semi batteries are almost certainly going to have a short life compared to BEV passenger car battery packs. If it takes 4 years to pay off the premium for using batteries over diesel in that semi tractor, but you have to replace the battery pack every four years, then there’s no advantage. If you have to replace it every 3-1/2 years, then you’re losing money. As I’ve pointed out, if the economics made sense, then we’d already see UPS and FedEx and Wal*Mart moving to replace their diesel semi tractors with BEV tractors. The cost/benefit analysis for BEV passenger cars vs. gasmobile passenger cars is only just now beginning to edge over into the “win” column for the BEV. The cost/benefit analysis for long-range BEV semi trucks is,… Read more »

“As I’ve pointed out, if the economics made sense, then we’d already see UPS and FedEx and Wal*Mart moving to replace their diesel semi tractors with BEV tractors.”

I can’t really see the logic in that statement. You can hardly expect them to switch to BEV tractors, if none are being offered.

As we have seen more often from the incumbents, they don’t have the b*lls to bring a reall innovative product on the market. Apparently, it comes down to start-ups to lead the way.

(btw, Deutsche Post is an exception for taking matters into their own hands: http://insideevs.com/germanys-postal-service-takes-on-big-auto/ )

You *must* be retired (or not have any kids).

Good guess. 🙂

But I’ve stated in several posts that I’m over 60 and retired, so it’s no secret.

Retired in Kansas?

Sounds as exciting as being retired in Tonto Basin, Az:)

Tesla?
What’s a Tesla?

PMPU,

You are way ahead of me on the numbers.

I found a reference that stated that todays most efficient semi’s are 10 MPG and at 3/1 MPGe versus that diesel that would put semi at 30 MPGe.
at 38.8 kwh/gal diesel that puts the consumption at .773 miles/kwh. and 600 mile range at 776 kwh.

then the numbers are almost doable.

You can bet Elon has a team working on this that is way smarter than us. If they think it is feasible then it probably is

Those 10 mpg semi concepts have next-gen diesel engines running at 50% efficiency. How do you plan to be 3x more efficient than that?

Doggy,
“Those 10 mpg semi concepts have next-gen diesel engines running at 50% efficiency. How do you plan to be 3x more efficient than that?”

Those trucks don’t have regen. Go up and read PMPU’s analysis.

Here’s my “Napkin math”:

A big Mercedes sedan gets around 25 MPG. My Model S gets around 93 MPGe. That’s a ratio of 3.7 and 93 MPGe is not all that great nowa days.

PMPU is using a ratio of 2.7 so a 3X ratio is not unheard of if Elon gets the aero drag down.

I know it sounds optimistic and as he says it is just Napkin math….but 30 MPGe may be attainable IMO

Regeneration doesn’t add that much in highway traffic. And you DO have some kind of regeneration with ICE and manual transmission, even if not very good.
Supertruck diesel engines have 50-55% thermal efficiency. LiIon batteries are not 100% efficient either.
https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/articles/supertruck-team-achieves-115-freight-efficiency-improvement-class-8-long-haul
“The total energy usage was similar between the Near-Dock, Local, and the Regional cycles at 2.06 to
2.10 kWh/mi suggesting the energy rate per mile is not necessarily a function of average power for
port driving operations.
● EDD2 recovered between 12 to 22% in regen energy with the highest recovery efficiency achieved for
the Near-Dock cycle, suggesting these electric trucks are well suited for short haul applications near
the ports with many stop and go operations.
● The fuel efficiency ranged from 17.9 to 18.3 MPGde for the transient port cycles and reached as high
as 19.2 MPGde for the 55 mph cruise cycle. The efficiency far surpassed that of conventional diesel
trucks as shown in Figure II-75. ”
https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2016/03/f30/Vehicle%20Systems%202015%20Annual%20Progress%20Report.pdf

It makes a big difference when coming down a mountain.

@GeorgeS – Pushmi is using 2.4 kWh/mile which is about 15 MPGE. SuperTruck aerodynamics (some of which aren’t currently legal or practical) can get you to about 2 kWh/mile or a bit under 20 MPGE. Your 30 MPGE is just not realistic.

Also, regen has no effect on the flat, steady-speed conditions under which SuperTrucks deliver 10+ mpg.

Yep, good stuff. And yes, I agree the battery cost and the weight are the barriers, not the size.

I also agree that there’s kinda no way that Tesla can build a 2 mwh battery powered semi that will be cost competitive at this time, though as you point out the crucial stat will be how long the battery will last under daily or twice daily charging. If they can get 10 years out of it then it would theoretically make sense even now.

IT WOULD NOT BE TOO DIFFICULT IF THEY ADOPT A TWO PRONGS’ EFFICIENCY STRATEGY, PERHAPS, THE TESLA SEMI’S NOSE SHOULD HAVE THE SHAPE OF A BULLET TRAIN AS THE BULLET TRAIN IS MOST AERO-DYNAMIC AMONG LARGER ELECTRIC VEHICLE POSSIBLY THE HYPERLOOP’S CABIN NOSE COULD HAVE THE SAME BULLET SHAPE TO MAXIMIZE DRAG-CO-EFFICIENCY WITH THE LEAST FRONTAL SURFACE AREA OF ACHIEVING LESSER THAN 2.0 CD EFFICIENCY!!! ALSO IF THE HYBRID BATTERY STRATEGY IS MAXIMIZED FROM EARLIER TESLA HYBRID BATTERY PATENTS OF USING NORMAL LITHIUM ION BATTERY PACKS COMBINED WITH METAL/AIR BATTERY PACKS DESIGNED FOR THE EASILY REPLACEABLE ZINC/ALUMINUM ELECTRODES AS THE LIGHT WEIGHT BATTERY COMBINATION THAT COULD ACHIEVE UNLIMITED RANGE WITH THE SWAPING OF THE SPENT METAL ELECTRODES THAT COULD BE RECYCLED WITHOUT ANY WASTAGES RIGHT AND SIMPLE OK???

K A, are a new set of glasses not an option, or a desktop PC with a bigger screen, instead of doing your comments on the fly with you phone, so you can scale your text bigger for you, instead of USING ALL CAPS?

The All Caps thing, makes it hard for your viewing audience to read: US!

“Musk says the truck, which will be unveiled officially this September, will out pace any diesel offering on the market today; and that is for both torque AND range.”

My prediction that this will be just a concept vehicle, not one aimed at production, looks even more likely now. Clearly this isn’t aimed at the “yard mule” truck market. And if what he says is literally true about range when hauling a load (not just running around unloaded and performing “like a sports car”), then it’s also not going to be aimed at the short-haul market (200-250 miles of daily range), as was speculated in a previous post here at InsideEVs.

I’m going to disagree with this one Pushmi. Musk seems to be quite serious about pushing the transport sector to renewables. Although initially the truck may only move Tesla’s own goods between its various locations, I believe it will definitely(eventually) go to the open market.

Mmmm, and here I was believing Tesla doesn’t do ‘concept vehicles’

It would be smart to have many options for battery packs, some companies maybe only need 100 miles others over 600

Will Tesla be selling just the Tractor (Truck) or both the Tractor and Trailer in 1 attached unit.

If they are selling just the tractor part, where will be batteries be placed. In the image, it looks like they have placed batteries in the top as well.

By the way, 400 mile may be more realistic and 600 mile looks like too high.

Anyway Tesla is capable of doing magic and they know what they are doing.

It should be just the tractor. Having it attached to a specific trailer is a significant limitation. The tractor should be able to drop a trailer and immediately pick up another one.

Bob,
IMO Elon will design the whole rig including trailer because of the aerodynamics. He has a huge challenge to get drag down compared to regular trucks.

Much of the drag challenges come from below the usual load floor: Those areas will likely be getting a lot of work in that aspect!

Boat Tails on Semi Trailers has been getting more attention, and solutions offered lately, too! I would expect Elon to be considering that challenge, too! Plus Cab-Trailer Drag Interface, another big one.

As a Diesel, going from 5 Mpg to over 10 Mpg was possible, if I remember specific Aero Truck cases of testing, over the last 15-20 years. I think one even got 12 Mpg or better.

Obviously, that is the kind of thing Elon would be shooting for, greatly reduced drag! I suspect, greatly reduced weight, and stronger chassis, are also being targeted! Better Batteries may also be on his mind, as a newer product or chemistry, beyond what Model 3 gets!

Robert:
“Much of the drag challenges come from below the usual load floor:”

How about lowering the floor and the truck height to get the drag down?

Since I think this will be only a concept vehicle, you may be right there. Adding a “tail” and “skirts” to the trailer would cut down on drag somewhat, increasing the range of the semi without needing a larger battery pack.

Of course that would make it less commercially viable, but if this is just a concept (or rather, “proof of concept”) vehicle, then that wouldn’t stop Tesla from building it that way.

Alternatively, Tesla may be able to make a “tail” and “skirts” which can be hooked onto a standard trailer. That would make it more practical, altho I question that Federal and State laws would allow a standard trailer to be made longer in that way.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trailer_tail

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trailer_skirt

Anything outside of the drivetrain that would improve efficiency would be just as applicable to diesel units as to ev units. Therefore, there would be no “ev advantage” to adding skirts, etc.

Contrary to what several people have posted, there is plenty of room in the semi tractor for a very large, ~2 MWh battery pack, once the diesel powertrain is removed. See my “napkin math” analysis upstream here.

The whole point of an “18-wheeler” tractor-trailer rig is that it allows, at least in theory, any tractor to pull any trailer. Tying the tractors down to a special type of trailer would make this a non-starter with almost zero market.

There is no need to put a battery pack in the trailer, unless it’s a “reefer” (refrigerated unit for frozen food) in which case it may need a separate power supply to run the refrigeration system.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

I want a Pickup Truck.
🙂

18-24 months later than Semi!

Probably more retail cost sensitive!

My thoughts exactly!

Interstate trucking has an 11 hour time limit with a 10 hour rest. So, you theoretically have a 10 hour recharge window and the batteries would need to last only 11 hours to “satisfy” the law. This would be more important on a connected vehicle that is constantly monitored and there is no way to fudge the numbers. Not sure what size battery would be needed to fulfill this requirement?

This is why ironically it may make more sense on long haul trucks. If you look at T Boone Pickens lng plan you will see it only takes a few hundred truck stops. Same here. Limited number of truck stops. They have to stop for several hours anyway. A 150kw charger more than sufficient

So no ability then to do a pair of drivers like they do sometimes? Better get those charge times down!!

Let’s just say that it would be a much lesser challenge to design a BEV semi tractor capable of running for a maximum of one 11-hour shift, with several hours in which to charge before the next shift.

If you have two drivers switching out, or swap out drivers at the destination, using a different driver for the return trip, then the BEV semi would need to use battery swapping to keep going rather than using overnight recharging.

Would this make a BEV semi less flexible than a diesel semi? Yes, of course. No person who knows much about this subject is going to claim that BEV semis are going to replace 100% of diesel semis starting tomorrow… or even in the next two years.

I don’t expect Tesla’s BEV semi to be cost-competitive, nor do I expect Tesla to put it into production. I expect it to be just a proof-of-concept vehicle.

It seems insane to start with a long haul truck. Start with yard trucks, tugs, and tractors doing local routes. That’s a big, big market.

Once you crack these, then go after the long haul market. Truckers and shipping companies are VERY cost sensitive. The good news is they certainly look at TCO, not just initial purchase price.

Truth. And operating regionally on set routes lets you set up central charging overnight where the trucks can charge at reasonable rates instead of having to setup insane 1 MW quick-charge stations across the country.

Is that really a big market? Do you have figures for that?

I have the impression that “yard mule” BEV semis are a small niche market, one already served by multiple suppliers, so not much opportunity for Tesla there. I also have read that there is a very limited need for using semis for local deliveries. Supermarkets do get daily deliveries from semis, but otherwise my understanding is that they’re used almost exclusively for long-distance freight hauling.

Most local delivery truck routes use smaller trucks, not tractor-trailer rigs.

Musk has never been accused of thinking small or doing things the easy way, so why should he start now. Once he solves the problem for long haul trucks the rest is easy.

I guess, easy, is relative! I believe he has decided, since he can land a rockets 1st stage, that is now easy! So, time to plan landing Stage 2! (Oh, and grab a paylod fairing, along the way!)

Similar with trucks: Starting at the high end, with a Semi Cab & maybe trailer, too; and, not for local use, but solve the issue for long haul, the rest will be demand, awaiting to get delivery! (Tesla Semi Reservations: $10,000.00? 100,000 of those quickly put a Billion in the cash bowl of Tesla!)

My guess is that they are reviving the battery swap technology. That would probably work better for trucks that always go the same route, you would only have to put up swapping stations at certain key locations. Filling up a diesel truck can also take quite a while, I guess swapping batteries is much faster.

Battery swapping stations installed at advantageous intervals along regular, fixed trucking routes may make sense, and would certainly make engineering a long-distance BEV semi easier. But the batteries themselves are still too expensive to make long-distance BEV semi tractor-trailer rigs economically feasible. Two ~1 MWh packs needed for a day’s travel by the semi tractor are not going to cost less than a single ~2 MWh pack. Cutting the pack size in half would make it less expensive to stock the battery swap stations, but that still wouldn’t bring the price down far enough to compete with diesel semi tractors. Not at today’s battery prices.

Give it a few more years for battery prices (and weight) to come down some more, and this may start to look competitive with diesel semi tractors.

Maybe someone will develop a solar trailer. It could recharge a truck that was sitting in the sun, and make some charge, when moving.

The idea being that it would also have some battery too, to run it’s running lights, and all the electrics, so it would not drain the truck battery.

Yes, neat idea. I calculated that already once. Approximately 40 miles per day could be gotten from panels on the top of a semi trailer.

40 kWh doesn’t sound like much, until you multiply it by the 100’s, or 1,000’s, or more, of Trailers 40 feet to 53 feet long, sitting still in yards, for days, & weeks! Such trucks could be grid connectted, or charge a battery underneath, while parked, anywhere!

While admittedly this sounds intriguing I just don’t see it working. Ever notice how the trees next to the road seem like they are always cut? It isn’t a trimming company that does that but rather trucks. The tops of trucks get all scratched up which is going to be a mess for the glass or plastic on panels I would think.

Elon knows what he is doing. He will place enough batteries to achieve the same or better mileage than diesel trucks that are on the road today. He could have a battery the size of the sleeping compartment on a regular semi and it might look like a truck with two sleepers. Elon knows what he is doing and if it will save $200,000.00 a year in fuel, it would be worth it to use $200.000.00 worth of batteries. The batteries should last for ten years.

But will they last 10 years in a semi tractor?

Keep in mind that passenger cars are typically used only 5-10% of the hours in a day. Contrariwise, semi tractors are expected to be in use as much of the time as possible. I don’t know what the average is, but given the high cost of insurance and road fees, I think a fleet operator is going to want to keep the truck on the road at least 12 hours out of every 24.

No, I don’t think a battery pack in a semi tractor would be expected to last 10 years. The expense of having to replace the pack every few years is one of the reasons why we don’t see, for example, Wal*Mart or FedEX or UPS moving to replace their diesel semi tractors with BEV tractors.

Tesla moved away from battery swapping for passenger cars, but maybe it would make more sense for this application. it would probably be a bit easier to design into a truck, mechanically speaking, and logistics might be easier with vehicles owned and managed as part of a fleet that run mostly standard routes with truck stops. Would certainly help with the charging limitations.

It seems most are missing the point.

This is speculation, but here’s what I think: The truck isn’t the product. Tesla is going into freighting, and selling trucks at a loss is how they establish a fleet. The business is in providing freighting services to the world, and jobs to that fleet.

Remember that this is a silicon valley car company! They are thinking in software and systems terms. The freighting business is ripe for disruption. Imagine letting the truck owner view a list of “most profitable routes” and simply pick one in the morning, right from the cabin. He retains control, but can use his time to profitably deliver, not on sales and admin. His salary will increase despite Tesla taking a few percent of every job.

Nikola is doing the same thing. If I’m aware there’s no way Musk isn’t. And the idea is so obviously good that I reckon Tesla doesn’t want to wait many years and let Nikola take it all away from them.

So while all the talk about the technical side of making an electric truck is interesting, the real economic advantages are as much in reinventing trucking as it is in lower running costs.

Interesting speculation; thanks for your “Thinking outside the box” scenario!

But Nikola doesn’t have a viable economic model. I thought it was iffy when they said they were gonna use semi tractors powered by turbines and natural gas — companies have made similar claims in the past, but that’s never panned out. But then Nikola said they were switching to fuel cells and hydrogen fuel, which makes it completely impractical.

No company has any reason to be worried about competition from Nikola. It’s going nowhere. At best it’s somebody letting their “green tech” idealism overcome their business sense, like (Project) Better Place. At worst it’s nothing but a sinkhole trying to suck in investor money, like Faraday Future.

Unfortunately, it appears you’re spot on with regard to Nikola. Their shifting paradigm speaks volumes.

I agree on the technology choice. The LNG range extended hybrid seemed viable, hydrogen still seems to me a terrible choice, even for the big truck long-haul application.

But the idea of integrating trucking services directly into the cabin seems like a really good one. Admittedly I don’t know the business, but truckers often own their vehicles and probably have to give a fairly large cut to middlemen who supply them with jobs. I don’t think it’s a particularly efficient market.

Semi trucks typically have a high roof wind deflector going to the top of the trailer. It makes sense to me that the whole cab should be raised higher as this will have the advantage to the driver of better visibility and leave lots of room underneath for batteries.

The prototype will be displayed in September. Production will still be a long way off.

Roy:
“Semi trucks typically have a high roof wind deflector going to the top of the trailer. It makes sense to me that the whole cab should be raised higher ”

Or how about dropping the height of the whole truck. Maybe one doesn’t need a conventional axle if one uses 4 independent motors. Sure would simplify loading and unloading in addition to lowering the drag.

I wonder if Tesla is thinking of an entirely different business model?
1)Autopilot to replace the driver. Long haul is well suited to autopilot with hundreds of miles of long straight roads, at least in the western US. Autonomous driving is coming, especially for trucks. Truckers will hate it, but Tesla is apparently in the lead with this, so commercial driving makes sense to pursue. Truckers will hate it, but it will definitely make the truck more financially attractive to freight companies. Alternatively, Tesla may pursue platooning, with a driver in the lead, and autonomous in trailing trucks.
2) Battery leasing with battery swap. Significantly lowers the up front capital cost and allows the lease to smooth out the reutrn on investment.

EVlivin,

Agreed. If Elon is serious then it will be a whole new business model. He seems to have a trick up his sleeve and it is fun trying to guess what that trick is.

Your guess on full autopilot is a good one and I looked into platooning. Platooning makes a lot of sense once you have AP figured out.

Problem is it really only saves around 10% or so in fuel so it’s not going to solve the problem in itself. Something more will be needed to fix the cost analysis.

I have another crazy and not original idea:

Elon’s new company is totally integrated. He can make the batteries and he can now make power since he owns his own solar cell manufacturing with Panasonic.

How about he makes his own power, stores it in his power packs at the new semi truck super charger network.

Then he offers free supercharging to get this thing off the ground.

Just a thought.

Wow if Tesla is successful it can mean a revolution in trucking business, TSLA will hit $666 per share lol

PMPU,
It is an incredibly difficult problem statement as you point out. You have stated before that you think it is just a concept truck and you could be right. Maybe Elon has run the numbers and put the problem on the shelf until we get a big battery break thru.

However, the fact that he has said that the truck will use model 3 motors may be signalling that he is totally serious about it and as “trucking expert” said Elon has a trick up his sleeve.

So just for a moment let’s pretend that he IS totally serious about this project and he does have a way to solve it.

Use your imagination.

What could this “trick” be.