The Tesla Semi, launched by Elon Musk, will deliver a far better experience for truck drivers, while increasing safety and significantly reducing the cost of cargo transport. 

Musk has described Tesla’s new battery-powered cargo vehicle as an “unreal beast” and is set to revolutionize the transport supply chain. Electric power is cheaper than conventional, fossil fuel and could include self-driving technology that would do away with drivers.

It’s so full of groundbreaking features and forward-thinking ideas that Musk joked on Twitter: “It can Transform Into a robot, fight aliens and make one hell of a latte.” The way Musk is going with space exploration, reinventing the battery, underground high speed travel and automated driving, this may not be much of a joke after all.

Already a pioneer in electric-powered cars and innovative self-driving software, Musk is on record as saying that developing electric vehicles was “not some silly hippy thing, it matters for everyone.” Redefining mobility is not just about replacing cars and trucks with new models, but looking at the entire infrastructure.

 

Megachargers, a new high-speed DC charging solution, will add about 400 miles in 30 minutes and can be installed at origin or destination points and along heavily trafficked routes, enabling recharging during loading, unloading, and the perfect opportunity for drivers to grab coffee and a doughnut during breaks.

Without a trailer, the Tesla Semi achieves 0-60 mph in five seconds, compared to 15 seconds in a comparable diesel truck. It does 0-60 mph in 20 seconds with a full 80,000-pound load, a task that takes a diesel truck about a minute. Most notably for truck drivers and other travelers on the road, it climbs 5% grades at a steady 65 mph, whereas a diesel truck maxes out at 45 mph on a 5% grade.

The Tesla Semi has been designed to drive in convoy with other Semi’s – multiple trucks driving in close proximity one behind the other. Musk reckons this “freight train of the roads” concept will be cheaper than shipping goods via cargo train. The lead vehicle would control the trucks behind it and also help cut congestion.

 

Unlike other trucks, the Semi’s cabin is designed specifically around the driver, featuring unobstructed stairs for easier entry and exit, full standing room inside, and a centered driver position for optimal visibility. Two touchscreen displays positioned symmetrically on both sides of the driver provide easy access to navigation, blind spot monitoring and electronic data logging. Built-in connectivity integrates directly with a fleet’s management system to support routing and scheduling, and remote monitoring. Diesel trucks today currently require several third party devices for similar functionality.

With far fewer moving parts than a diesel truck – no engine, transmission, after-treatment system or differentials to upkeep – the Tesla Semi requires significantly less maintenance. Its battery is similar in composition to the batteries of Tesla energy products and is designed to support repeated charging cycles for over a million miles, while its motors are derived from the motors used in Model 3 and have been validated to last more than one million miles under the most demanding conditions.

 

The biggest immediate cost-advantage comes from savings in energy costs: fully loaded, the Tesla Semi consumes less than two kilowatt-hours of energy per mile and is capable of 500 miles of range at highway speed. While this distance might sound like a limitation, consider that nearly 80% of freight in the U.S. is moved less than 250 miles.

If you’re still not convinced, maybe the cost saving will help change your mind. With the low and stable nature of electricity prices – which average $0.12/kWh in the U.S.  – owners can expect to gain $200,000 or more in savings over a million miles based on fuel costs alone.

Production of the Tesla Semi is due in 2019.