The Tesla Semi Truck has started deliveries in the US – three years behind schedule, but with 800 km of real-world range when fully loaded, three times the power of any diesel truck and faster charging than any production electric vehicle.
Tesla Semi’s first electric truck has been delivered in the US to drink Pepsi – three years later than planned and five years after the vehicle was unveiled.
The Tesla Semi is the first of 100 that the company has reportedly ordered. It was handed over during a ceremony on Friday morning Australian time after a series of lengthy delays.
The Tesla Semi was unveiled in 2017 with the promise of first deliveries in 2019.
However, the global coronavirus pandemic delayed the launch first to 2021 and then eventually to late 2022. Production started two months ago.
At launch, the Tesla Semi will be able to travel 500 miles (805 km) on a single charge, weigh up to 82,000 lb (37.2 tons) and be powered by three electric motors derived from one of the world’s fastest production cars – the Tesla Model S Plaid Sedan.
According to vehicle technology chief Dan Priestley, it should be “three times as powerful as any diesel truck on the road” – and decouple two of its electric motors to save energy on the motorway.
Pricing has yet to be released, but figures posted on Tesla’s website earlier this year suggested the flagship version would cost $180,000 (AU$268,000).
The Tesla Semi’s battery and motors run at 1,000 volts – higher than any electric passenger car on sale – and the vehicle can be charged at up to 1 megawatt, three times more than any new electric car on sale (350 kW).
Tesla has previously claimed this allows the Semi to charge 70 percent of its advertised capacity in 30 minutes on compatible “mega chargers.”
CEO Elon Musk announced that this one-megawatt charging technology will be used by Tesla’s upcoming electric ute, the Cybertruck – which could break records for EV charging times.
Tesla claims it verified its 500-mile range rating last month in a real-world test that traveled that distance from its main plant in Fremont, California, to the city of San Diego — while hauling a load of more than 37 tons.
“There were no rapid movements here. Let’s be clear, it’s not like ‘What tricks did they pull’. There’s actually a whole bunch of tricks we could have done,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk told attendees at the event and those watching the handover online.
“It’s not like 500 miles without a charge, with special aero and everything that’s special. It’s fully loaded,” Mr Musk said as data from the range test appeared on a screen behind him, revealing the Semi had completed the test with four percent battery remaining.
The company says it will release video of the entire eight-hour test youtube.
The driving range claim is partially attributed to the semi’s aerodynamic shape – compared to other semis – which Mr Musk describes as “shaped like a sphere”.
Tesla claims that when fully loaded, the Semi uses less than 2kWh of energy per mile, equivalent to 124kWh/100km – nine times what a Tesla Model 3 sedan uses in a vehicle nine to 10 times heavier.
Tesla’s claimed consumption is higher than Volvo’s of its FH electric truck – but the Swedish vehicle was only able to cover less than half the distance (345 km) and at a slower speed (80 km/h compared to the 110 km/h h on the US highways of the semi) travel further).
Tesla hasn’t disclosed the size of the Semi’s battery pack, although multiplying the power consumption by the range suggests a 1000kWh battery pack.
The range of 500 miles (805 km) would make the Semi one of the longest-range electric vehicles in the world – regardless of whether it is a luxury car or a 37-ton truck.
Other highlights of the Tesla Semi unveiled on stage include a stability control system said to prevent dangerous jackknife, where a truck loses control and “folds over” onto its trailer – and regenerative braking, which aims to improve safety by reducing it the load of a truck takes mechanical brakes.
While a diesel truck’s brakes can overheat and fail on a long downhill stretch — necessitating the “runaway” gravel-truck ramps along steep roads in the US and Australia — Musk claims that Semis hit the bottom of long downhill roads ” with cold will reach “brakes”.
Video presented by Tesla at the delivery event shows a fully loaded semi truck accelerating up a 6 percent grade and passing a diesel truck at 3 percent.
“It’s really like driving a normal car, not like driving a truck. It’s just that you’re moving 82,000 pounds [37 tonnes]’ said CEO Elon Musk on stage.
Engineering lead Dan Priestley added, “Any freeway grade you come across, you can tackle at speed. There’s no compromise, no slowing down.”
Drivers sit in the center of the Semi’s cabin, with a large screen on either side, a right-side console with cup holders and a wireless phone charger, and a new three-spoke steering wheel that differs from other Tesla cars.
Tesla claims drivers can “stand up” in the vehicle – which Tesla executives say is “unheard of” in the trucking industry – in a “day cab” rather than a “sleeping cab” with a bed.
With the first Tesla Semi deliveries now underway, the company is preparing to ramp up production with a target of 50,000 being built for the North American market in 2024.
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