Is commercial long-distance trucking ready to be electrified?
Humanity may not have reached vehicular advancements like hoverboards and flying cars – but something pretty exciting is about to be unveiled.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has revealed that the company is about to showcase its newest invention – an electric lorry which can reportedly drive itself.
Writing in a tweet, Musk said the unveiling – and first test drives – are tentatively scheduled for October 26. They will take place in Hawthorne, California – where Tesla’s design studio is based.
He added: “Worth seeing this beast in person. It’s unreal.”
The release will mark Tesla’s first foray into the commercial vehicle world.
The big question, therefore must be, is electric vehicle technology evolved enough to deal with the demands of long-distance trucking?
Experts have described the challenge of electrifying this sector as ‘monumental’ – there are a number of issues Elon Musk’s company will have to tackle.
For example, charging infrastructure must be in place – and this a core part of the challenge.
According to Michael Baudendistel, a Stifel Financial Corp. analyst: “You can’t put the cart before the horse.
“Widespread adoption hinges on the availability of fueling stations, and the infrastructure built for Tesla autos was not designed for Class 8 trucks.
“Battery swapping and refueling overnight are both options which would require significant additional investment in infrastructure and logistics.”
In addition, there are questions about the size and weight of the truck’s battery, which are both said to exceed traditional batteries.
VP of research for the American Trucking Research Institute, Daniel Murray, told Trucks.com: “No one has clarified for us how much extra battery weight will accrue, which, of course, decreases revenue weight.
“We believe at least 600-800 miles of range is needed for the truck to be competitive in the line-haul market.
“We have heard indications that the Tesla semi’s range will be 200-300 miles, which would limit its addressable market.”
A more basic problem relates to production itself, with Forbes asking whether Tesla has the capacity to manufacture the trucks within a realistic timeframe.
A recent piece by the outlet claims: “While Elon Musk has indicated that production of the truck could scale up within 18 to 24 months, we believe that the timeline could be longer, as the company likely has its hands full with the production of the mass market Model 3 sedan, which is already seeing waiting periods that extend past mid-2018.”
Should Tesla succeed in its mission to bring enter the commercial market, it could see a huge payoff.
According to one analyst, capturing just a small part of the sector – 10 percent – could lead to a revenue boost of $2.5 billion.
Morgan Stanley Analyst Adam Jonas claims Tesla’s attempted foray into commercial makes ‘a lot of sense — maybe even more sense than passenger cars’.
So the environmental and financial stakes are high: now all eyes are on Tesla, waiting eagerly for October 26.