In a move that could be the first step toward revolutionizing the transport and logistics sector, Tesla just delivered its first all-electric semi-truck to PepsiCo. Speculations about when Tesla would move beyond showcasing its prototypes had been underway for a long time owing to several delays, but the delivery of the first semi has put those to rest for good.
The science and other stuff to know
The Tesla semi falls in the class-8 truck category, for which the gross trailer weight rating is specified as 33,001 pounds (14,969 kg) and above. It comes in with two battery packs that offer a range between 300 and 500 miles on a single charge. The company says the trucks can recover up to 70 percent of their range in 30 minutes using Tesla’s Semi Chargers. Tesla also claims that charging with “electricity is approximately 2.5 times cheaper per mile than refueling with diesel”.
At the delivery event, it was the company CEO Elon Musk himself who drove the truck to the venue, telling attendants that they had to have a Tesla semi if they wanted the “most badass rig” available.
The truck was first announced in 2017, but production was delayed several times due to supply-side issues that included a shortage of parts.
According to prior news reports, the truck would have started at $150,000 for the base version with a 300-mile range, while the long-range version was expected to start selling at around $180,000. The company has not revealed the actual prices for the vehicle, nor offered details of its power base. The website merely says the truck is powered by three “independent motors on rear axles”.
In theory, the all-electric truck ticks all the right boxes, especially considering the spiraling urgency for climate action. Most heavy-duty trucks run on diesel, and diesel smoke primarily consists of black carbon which is a major contributor to global warming and carries other health hazards. The World Health Organization declared diesel emissions to be carcinogenic in 2012, hinting at the damage they can cause to human health and the environment.
So any alternative that offers a solution for ending, or at least reducing, the carbon footprint of the trucking industry is a welcome sign.
With PepsiCo getting its hands on the first all-electric semi truck, more deliveries are certain to follow. But as is the case with the production and delivery of its passenger vehicles, the proof of the pudding will be in how Tesla manages the orders and promised deliveries. More than that, there has been little real-world evidence suggesting that the trucks can perform as well as the company claims they could.
Reliability will be another issue for an industry where time management is critical for survival. A fleet of electric trucks that promises immense cost savings but is plagued by engineering flaws that cost a fortune to fix will do Tesla’s rapport no good.
Tesla would like to keep on trucking. But it must tread with caution.