Are you ready for an electric semi-truck? Apparently, the answer is “yes” for some companies that spend millions of dollars on long-haul trucking to deliver many of their products. And that’s why Tesla’s recent unveiling of a new heavy-duty electric semi-truck is generating so much enthusiasm – even though the vehicles won’t be in production until 2019.
Walmart preordered 15 of the new trucks, five for the U.S. market and 10 for Walmart Canada. In addition, J.B. Hunt Transport Services said it would buy an unspecified number and Meijer, the Michigan-based grocery chain, preordered four trucks.
“We have a long history of testing new technology – including alternative-fuel trucks – and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle,” Walmart said in a statement. “We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions.”
During an event to unveil the new Tesla Semi last week, CEO Elon Musk said that the new trucks will go from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds and accelerate at that range in 20 seconds with an 80,000-pound load. In addition, the trucks can climb hills with a 5 percent grade at speeds of 65 mph, compared to 45 mph for a conventional diesel truck.
Musk said the vehicle will save time and money because of its design, as well as enhance driver safety and improve the environment. The Tesla Semi has two drive axles and two motors – the same electric motors in Tesla’s new Model 3 sedan.
The trucks are designed with the steering wheel in the center and a touchscreen panel on both sides of the driver, who can sit or stand up in the vehicle.
The Tesla Semi is also outfitted with Autopilot, which uses sensors, cameras and software to offer features that keep drivers within a lane and cruising at the right speed, among other things. If a driver doesn’t respond to autopilot, it will pull the truck over, park and call emergency services, added Musk.
The semis have a 500-mile range with a single charge. Given that the average truck route is 250 miles each way, “you can deliver on a road out in the middle of nowhere and come back without needing a charge,” Musk said. With a bold-shaped nose and side flaps that will mold to whatever type of trailer being pulled, the truck has what he called “incredible highway range.”
The charging devices – called megachargers – will generate energy via solar panels.
“Your truck will be running on sunlight,” Musk said.