Tesla Unveils their Electric Semi-truck – But Will it Save the Planet?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has unveiled the latest addition to the company’s line of electric cars – an all-electric big rig. So, after more than a decade of making cars and SUVs, Tesla has released a semi truck that is more aerodynamic than a supercar and runs up to 500 miles on a single charge.

Interiors Inspired by Model 3

The Tesla Semi truck’s interiors share the same DNA as that of Tesla’s Model 3. There is a single seat in the center and is flanked on both sides with touch-sensitive displays, just like the ones in their SUVs.

A center-mounted seating and steering wheel on the semi looks a little out of the world. The entire setup was built using a truck chassis with components from the Model 3. So, one may find the door handles and the screens similar to ones in the SUV. There is also a “frunk” or front trunk.

There are two variants of the truck – the Semi Sleeper and the Day truck. The former comes with 500 miles range where the latter has 300 miles range.

Performance

In terms of performance, the Semi an accelerate from zero to sixty in just five seconds and haul 80,000 pounds. With a 30 minutes charge, it can go up to 400 miles and has a total range of about 500 miles.

The truck will be semi-autonomous. It will come with Tesla’s autopilot on board. So, it can keep the lane and also brake on its own when needed. The first deliveries of the semi are expected in 2019, the same year production begins.

The cost of maintaining the Tesla Semi is also lower. Most gas trucks cost $ 1.51 per mile whereas the operating cost of Tesla’s Semi will have an operating cost of only $ 1.26 per mile on average.

The cost goes down simply because electric motors have fewer moving parts than diesel engines. Being a simpler setup, the cost of maintenance automatically goes down. The motors used the Semi is similar to those used in Model 3 and those motors have been validated to last more than one million miles under demanding conditions.

But will it make a difference?

The trend of electric cars is still not there. Even though car manufacturers are slowly moving from making fast and powerful cars to making zero-emission vehicles.

However, the question has now changed. We are slowly seeing the shift – companies like Volvo and General Motors are also making the shift. But how long will it take to make the shift?

Right now, only 0.5% of the world’s cars are electric cars. Ryder has deployed 125 e-vans from California startup Chanje and the United Parcel Service runs 300 electric trucks in its global fleet of 100,000 vehicles.

The trucking industry is extremely price-sensitive and is a huge investment. With the lower maintenance costs, the e-trucks would may for themselves eventually, but that would still take years.

Right now, road transportation contributes 1/6th of the total greenhouse gas emissions. 40% of this emission solely comes from freight. This emission could triple by 2050 if we do not make the shift fast. A wide global agreement has been made to ban cars with IC engines. Countries such as Norway plans to do that as early as 2025. India plans to do it by 2030, with their capital – New Delhi, being one of the most polluted cities in the world.

What is still holding us back?

Batteries are still being a big issue. All the Tesla vehicles are using Lithium-ion batteries. These are the same batteries that we are using on our phones and these are the best that we have right now.

One of the major drawbacks, in this case, is the weight of the battery. The bigger the battery, the more power it will deliver, but then again, a heavier battery means lesser range.

For electric vehicles, cars would need charging points like gas stations. There also needs to be a separate power grid for cars, connecting charging points. These charging points will also need to keep extra charged batteries so that cars can easily swap them on the fly. All this infrastructure are required to be supported by the government. Not a lot of countries are doing that at the moment. Moreover, if a country’s electricity is generated thermally from burning coal, then there is no point in releasing electric cars. The power source should be renewable or nuclear.

There is also a lot of political pressure. Oil is a huge source of revenue for a large number of countries and hence governments supporting companies that are releasing electric cars are quite a rare sight.

However, the hopeful part is that with car makers making the shift, our reliance on fossil fuels will reduce. But this shift needs to happen faster.

Source: Quartz

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