Well, after his recent shock announcement that such a thing even existed, Elon Musk and Tesla have announced and demonstrated their new electric “heavy rig” truck.
What does this mean for things like haulage and moving companies?
The original announcement
A few months back, Musk made one of his famous “oh, in passing… ” type announcements. This delivered the news, with all the razzmatazz and drama that might be expected of someone saying “oh, I think it’ll rain tomorrow“, that he would be shortly showing an all-electric and high-tech haulage rig.
Virtually all the industry pundits were shocked and excited. Some were hugely sceptical that this was possible in the few short months between Musk’s announcement and his target date for the truck being presented to the world.
As usual, Tesla proved those latter wrong – including what was pure theatrics when at the same time as unveiling the truck, a brand new Tesla electric supercar appeared from inside it – again to the shock of just about everyone.
However, let’s not talk about the car further here!
At the time of writing (Nov 2017) the truck in many respects has exceeded expectations.
Externally, the tractor and trailer don’t look THAT different. Sure, there’s some streamlining and that not only improves the aerodynamics but also just makes it look a lot prettier than most.
It’s really in the cab that the huge visual differences are noticed. Of course, as you might expect, it’s packed with technology including cameras, computers and display screens – including radar. It also comes with armoured glass which apparently won’t shatter or crack.
The most obvious difference though is that the driver’s seat is in the middle of the cab, not to one side of it. It’s also unique in that both the driver and passenger can stand upright in the cab.
All things told, if you include internal cab appearance, this truck looks seriously different.
The figures quoted by Tesla have yet to be independently verified but they include some quite staggering claims:
- 500 miles (805k) between recharges
- Fast recharging technology
- 0-60mph (96kph) in 5 seconds (without trailer). This goes to 20 seconds when pulling a loan of 80,000Lbs (about 36,000k).
Of course, all this comes with zero or next to zero emissions.
It looks an attractive proposition.
As with all things Tesla, their innovation is second to none but sometimes the application and practicality can be challenges.
For example, Tesla admits that, to put it bluntly, it’s got into a mess with some of its car production. They’ve more than cracked the technology and marketing (people want their cars) but what they’re struggling with is the sordid and perhaps to them boring bit – i.e. mass production.
So, production delays and missing targets have become something they’re almost as famous for as their revolutionary approaches.
As some are pointing out, the truck is supposed to go into production in late 2019 but there’s little to hand so far on numbers or even prices. So, there’s a huge unknown there.
Others are pointing out that, perhaps a little like the original Nikola Tesla, they may be risking a dilution of their focus across too many radically different lines of R&D. The risk being that their overall commercial impact becomes degraded, as they’re basically trying to do too much at the one time.
Right now, Musk appears to be driving forward vast innovations in domestic electricity production, electric cars, electric road haulage, aviation, trans-continental high-speed tube transport schemes, orbital and even deep-space travel. There are clearly synergies between some of these endeavours but some people are questioning whether this is all too much for any one company or man to keep on top of.
The world is already a better place for Tesla and Elon Musk. This new truck seems to be part of that but it will need to make a real impact on the road and in numbers if the company and its concepts are to achieve credibility in this domain.