Guess who Tesla Semi’s first customer is!
Believe it or not, it’s Tesla itself!
Tesla’s new all-electric semi truck prototypes rolled out of the company’s Gigafactory 1 in Storey County, Nevada, on its first production cargo run to Tesla’s car manufacturing facility in Fremont, California.
Two Tesla Semis, fitted with full-sized trailers laden with batteries, are expected to make the 240-mile trip in less than five hours, starting the short haul from an altitude of 4,400 feet, steadily climbing to 7,200 feet to the I-80 and Donner Summit intersection, before beginning its descent down to sea level.
This actually means that a round trip between the two points would fall just under the projected 500-mile range of the semi.
The ever-enthusiastic Musk took to social media on Wednesday to share images of the two Semis leaving the Nevada facility en route to the Fremont factory.
“First production cargo trip of the Tesla Semi heavy-duty truck, carrying battery packs from the Gigafactory in the Nevada mountains to the car factory in California,” read Musk’s accompanying message.
While Musk may choose to call it a production trip, the fact remains that the futuristic looking semi will go under production sometime in 2019, and, logically, it looks like deliveries won’t be happening before we’re well into 2020 – at the earliest.
That said, the Nevada-California test run should give the company valuable insight to the semi’s capability to handle real-world road situations, including sudden vehicular movements, stop signs, sharp bends, sudden braking etc., thereby enabling Tesla to iron out glitches, if any, and expedite production, considering the good number of pre-orders it has already secured.
Musk unveiled the Tesla Semi in November last year at the company’s Hawthorne facility in California, promising 500 miles on a single charge with the potential of doing one million miles of breakdown-free runs.
Although the futuristic looking semi will go under production sometime in 2019, as already mentioned, Walmart pre-ordered 15 of them to add to its fleet of 6,000 conventional trucks. The retail giant plans to employ 5 of these semis for its US operations while the remaining 10 are intended for the company’s Canadian routes.
“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 had said in a statement at the time.
“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.”
However, Tesla had declined to comment on specific customer orders.
And it wasn’t just Walmart that went on a pre-order spree; Arkansas-based JB Hunt Transport Services said in a statement that the company had booked “multiple” Tesla semis.
JB Hunt’s President and CEO John Roberts had said, “We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new, sustainable technology.”
Furthermore, Michigan-based supermarket chain Meijer told BLOOMBERG at the Hawthorne event that it had advanced $5,000 to Tesla for each of the four semis it had ordered.
Some of the other companies to have placed pre-orders for the semi are Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, Noway’s Posten Norge, DHL, UPS, Sysco, Ryder and Asko.
While analysts were apprehensive about the vehicle’s competitiveness against traditional heavy-duty trucks in so far as the cost per mile is concerned, Musk had pledged $1.26 per- mile operation costs on a 100-mile route for each of its semis, as opposed to $1.51 incurred by a diesel truck. Great economics for truckers, one has to say!
The main idea behind all-electric long-haul vehicles is to have a more telling impact on greenhouse gas emissions since conventional diesel freight trucks are particularly hazardous to the environment because of its toxic emissions.
Jimmy O’Dea from the Union of Concerned Scientists says, “Heavy-duty vehicles make up a small fraction of the vehicles on the road, but a large fraction of their emissions.”
To put this in perspective, heavy-duty vehicles (trucks and buses) make up 7 percent of total vehicles in the state of California but account for 20 percent of transportation-related emissions and one-third of all Nitrogen Oxide, or NOx, emissions that are highly reactive gases, formed when fuel burns at high temperatures – one of the major causes of respiratory diseases, including asthma.
From the outside, the Tesla Semi is all about aerodynamics, which is so important when we talk about fuel efficiency, whether you’re trying to get the most out of a gallon of diesel or get the maximum distance from a single charge on an electric vehicle.
Because there is no space-consuming bulky engine, transmission, after-treatment system or differentials to contend with and work around, the nose of the vehicle has been kept almost flat without much protrusion. This allows for the driver’s seat, which is in the center of the cab much like the McLaren F1 sports car, to be set far forward. And that, in turn, has made it possible for Tesla to accommodate a secondary seat behind the captain’s seat.
There is enough head space within the cab to allow even well over 6-foot-tall people to stand upright.
The cab is equipped with two 15-inch touch-screens, either side of the pilot seat, to assist the driver in navigation, blind side monitoring, and more. Additionally, there are two extensions on the steering giving access to other functions.
Tesla has paid a great deal of attention to safety as well. Onboard sensors monitor jack-knifing and fishtailing and make adjustments by managing power to the individual wheels. A reinforced battery will prevent it from exploding or catching fire in the event of an accident, while a strengthened windshield has been incorporated to stop it from cracking.
Similar to Tesla’s electric passenger vehicles, the Tesla semi has also been fitted with an Autopilot system that allows advanced control features to the driver with its array of sensors, cameras, radar, and software. It gives some level of autonomy to the vehicle which can adjust speeds according to traffic conditions, stay within a particular lane, and even change lanes without the need of driver-intervention.
“This is no mere ‘truck.’ It will transform into a giant robot, fight aliens, and makes one hell of a latte,” is what Elon Musk had teased with prior to the Tesla semi’s November launch.