If Tesla can deliver on the promises made in the unveiling presentation of its commercial semi truck, the Tesla Semi will set the bar for the future of commercial truck transportation. The vehicle brings better economies to the industry than analysts had expected and sets the stage to disrupt the carbon-based diesel truck manufacturing industry and even compete with the rail transportation sector.
The first trucks will be available for delivery in 2019 with pre-orders available now. Wal-Mart, who has one of the largest trucking fleets, has already pre-ordered 15 of the Tesla Semis.
Based on conservative assumptions**, Elon Musk announced that the operating cost of a Tesla Semi is $1.26 per mile, which is 17% less than a Diesel truck. The Tesla Semi also has better performance, dependability, safety, and is a "Zero Emissions Vehicle". The trucks are capable of a 500-mile range, can accelerate to 60 miles an hour three times faster than a diesel truck fully loaded, and come standard with auto-pilot capabilities.
Some analysts were expecting the Tesla Semi to be fully automated and driverless to reduce expenses further, however, that was not yet announced. As the race for driverless vehicles continues, some believe that driverless trucks should be tested before passenger vehicles. The logic behind the argument is that the trucks travel at slower speeds and travel across longer rural distances where there is less traffic. For now, Tesla Semis have auto-pilot, and are still designed to have a human driver behind the wheel.
The other “mind-blowing” feature that these intelligent trucks have is the ability to travel in a convoy and use drafting to reduce wind resistance and reduce their operational cost below that of rail transport.
This transportation strategy is made possible by the autopilot feature. Thus Tesla Semi technology is positioned to not only take market share from its direct competition in the diesel trucking industry but to also compete for market share from the rail sector. If Tesla can deliver on their promise, the Tesla Semi will be the next evolution of the trucking industry.
As an aside from the trucking announcement, Tesla also unveiled their new $200,000 Roadster which will be the fastest consumer production car in history.
If you missed the livestream of the event the team at The Verge did a great job at editing the video down to 9 minutes.
**Operating cost assumptions based on 100-mile route, 60 miles per hour average speed, 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, $2.50 per gallon diesel vs. $0.07 kilowatts hour electricity price