Introducing Tesla’s new semi truck, Elon Musk’s biggest gamble yet

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Telsa’s new semi truck is jam packed with lots of features and incredible range at that. Rooted from Tesla’s own DNA, the future seems fairly cool with the introduction of Tesla’s new semi truck line. The truck was unveiled at Tesla’s Hawthorne, California facility on Thursday.

Powered by a massive battery, the electric semi truck is capable of hauling 80,000 pounds. The truck will also come with self-driving capabilities — on the highway at least. As self-driving technology advances, we’ll see more introduced to the public.

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Inside of Tesla’s semi truck seems a bit familiar but also strange at the same time. The center-mounted seat feels a bit strange given that all trucks are either left or right drive, but elements of Model 3 were present as well, such as turn signal and gear lever, and the truck also had a different steering wheel since it didn’t require having an airbag.

Musk believes that going after the trucking industry is a chance to make an impact in the industry. For example, since the Model S was introduced, Tesla has sold more than 200,000 cars. Now, taking into account that there are over 250 million passengers on the road, Tesla isn’t making a dent, at all. But the innovative and long-term approach that Elon Musk is playing for is the bigger picture here.

The difference here is that Trucks offer a more effective way to make a different, particularly because they’re 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. California produces 20 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and third of all NOx emissions.

Moving into the trucking industry gives Musk an opportunity that many companies don’t have right now. Coming into this industry allows electric trucking opportunity to move in and start taking over. Now, it may take a while before electric trucks become a new trend among large and small trucking companies, but there are a lot of opportunities now for both sides.

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The design of the truck is absolutely gorgeous. The carbon fiber cab is all smooth lines, to say the least. Aerodynamics are a really big deal when it comes to fuel economy and Tesla has promised that the Semi will cut through the wind much more efficiently than some sports cars. Looking at the truck from the inside, the can borrows designs from its current line of offerings. The driver’s seat is now in the center. There’s also a jump seat behind it, to the right. Because the Semi truck doesn’t have a huge and bulky Diesel engine isn’t the front, Tesla converted the front nose of the cab into a vertical slab. The main seat is much more forward, so drivers will be able to see more of the ground in front than ever before.

The cab is about 6’6″ tall, so there’s plenty of space to go in, even stand and move around. THe suicide doors that come with the Truck will offer a better accessing experience, unlike current trucks. There are two 15-inch touchscreen on each side of the driver. These handle navigation, data logging, blind spot monitoring, and much more. The only button you’ll notice around the the area is the button that operated the hazard lights, and everything else is done via the touch screens available to the driver.

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The Semi’s battery is reinforced to keep if from catching fire or exploding, in the event that you may get into a crash. They company didn’t disclose the size of the battery but it takes up space about three feet high, and stretches from the front wheels to the pair in the back. There are also four electric motors, the same ones that are found in the Model 3, and two dedicated to each axle. Speaking in terms of power, the Semi is expected to have around 1,032 horsepower, which is twice the power you’ll find in diesel trucks of the same size. Torque is what also really matters but Tesla has not revealed that piece of information either.

The safety glass has also been reinforced so chips and cracks won’t occur easily, and there are onboard sensors that will look for signs of jackknifing and adjust power to individual wheels to make sure everything is running as smooth as possible.

We shall not forget about one of Tesla’s signature features — Enhanced Autopilot. Tesla is bringing self-driving capabilities to the Semi, making sure you’re staying in lanes and a safe distance from neighboring vehicles. There’s also a build-in radar in from of the Semi, and cameras all over the place.

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Including a lot of great features is great and all, but selling the truck to a niche market is another. Unlike Tesla’s other cars, a Semi truck is pitching to a very specific market that doesn’t necessarily care about all the cool features Tesla is offering in the Semi. They care more about the specifics such as maintenance cost, fuel costs, etc. Anne Goodchold, who runs the University of Washington’s Supply Chain Transportaion and Logistics Center says that plenty of companies are open to new solutions, but they aren’t big on experimenting. “There are few who will be eager to be testing that out in their day-to-day operations,” she says.

The trucking industry doesn’t necessarily go for cool either. To reiterate, they care more about the total cost of ownership, accounting for everything from cost of fuel, upfront cost of the car, maintenance, and downtime. “We have to provide a product that in essence allows them to make money,” says Darren Gosbee, the head of advanced powertrain engineering at Navistar, a truck and bus manufacturer.

Speaking specifically about fuel cost, Tesla’s Semi should absolutely provide a big advantage in cost-saving fuel cuts. Electricity is a lot cheaper than diesel fuel, obviously. The problem companies could face is maintenance and downtime for the trucks. Musk promised chargers that can add 400 miles of range in 30 minutes, but that also requires a fast fill-in specialized infrastructure, something Tesla hasn’t exactly perfected. Even if Tesla were to build those stops for truckers, the drivers will be spending more time stopping to refuel, meaning wasted time. That’s not something companies want to hear, and is a clear disadvantage over diesel-powered trucks. Musk has done the math and says that on 100-mile routes, Tesla Semi will cost just $1.26 per mile to operated, compared to $1.51 to diesel trucks. We currently don’t know how Musk came up with those numbers, but we will probably hear more about it in the near future.

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With production of Model 3 well behind schedule, it makes you wonder how Musk plans to produce the volume needed for Semi’s production to meet demand. How on earth will Musk do that? Well, it’s safe to say right now that he will find a way to do it. The man has promised a lot and has continuously delivered. He’s trying to move humanity to Mar,s have an intercity rocket travel service, have networks of tunnels for traveling, and plenty more. He’s doing a lot, but he’s continued to show effort and knows that even though not everything may work the way he wants them to, but in the end, trophy will be his. He’s inching a step closer to bringing the new Semi truck to an industry that desperately needs an overhaul.

Hamza Khalid

Hamza Khalid is the Lead Editor at The Jolt Journal. You're more than welcome to follow him on Twitter and follow The Jolt Journal on Twitter and Facebook. If you have any questions, concerns, or need to report something in this article, please send our team an email at [email protected]. This story may be updated at any time if new information surfaces.

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