Semi-regular Tesla books open

Customers can now place orders for Tesla Semi. So far, companies can reserve one but don’t actually order one. Tesla Semi had a gestation period of 4 years, during which time many of its specifications became publicly available. The truck will have 4 electric motors powering the rear wheels and will be available with a range of 300 or 500 miles. The company has not yet released details about the size of the batteries in each version.

The company says the “expected base price” is $150,000 for the semi-standard range and $180,000 for the extended range. The “expected base price” language leaves room for maneuver to adjust prices based on the recent surge in raw material prices for lithium and nickel.

Here’s how to order one. Interested parties are required to deposit $5,000 immediately and an additional $20,000 within 10 days. Tesla has not yet said when the first trucks will be delivered.

Specifications

Tesla wasn’t the first company to put a Class 8 electric tractor in the hands of customers. Our colleague Joe Borras was in California last week for the annual ACT Heavy Truck Show and was surrounded by battery electric trucks from Volvo Trucks and more. What makes the Tesla Semi stand out in what will soon become a crowded field are its specifications.

Most trucks have the aerodynamic efficiency of a small hangar. Tesla says half has a CD of 0.36. This is significantly lower. According to one scientific study, the tractor and trailer has a CD of more than 6. And this, friends, is a kind of dangerous aerodynamic drag. Tesla insists that the semi-system consumes only less than 2 kilowatt-hours of electricity per mile. My readers know I’m terrible at math, but if you multiply 2 by the specified range for Semi, you should be able to come up with a reasonable estimate of how much battery is needed to achieve range goals.

The battery itself can be charged at 240 kW and will need two hours to go from a 20% to 80% charge state. The Tesla Semi can maintain a speed of 60 mph while towing a 5% loaded trailer and sprint at 60 mph with a trailer attached in less than 20 seconds. It might not sound like that fast, but keep in mind that the truck and trailer weight limit is 82,000 pounds. And my mother Hellman in 1961 could hardly have done anything better.

Autopilot included

Tesla Semi will come with a full suite of electronic driver assistance features, including autopilot. The company notes that drivers will have to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times, just like a regular Tesla. But the quiet, vibration-free ride should be a welcome relief for many long-distance truck drivers.

Fleet managers will be pleased to know that Tesla Semi will lower fuel costs, especially now with diesel prices at record levels. Tesla says the truck should pay for itself in lower maintenance and fuel costs in about two years. Will Tesla Semi disrupt the heavy-duty truck industry the way the Model 3 disrupted the passenger car market? Perhaps, and this is good for the Earth and for people who like to breathe air free from pollution and particulates.


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