What Is The Tesla Semi All About?
If science fiction shows and movies from decades ago were to be believed, by 2020 we’d all have jetpacks, butler robots, and autonomous cars that flew us from place to place. And, while many of those wilder fantasies are still just that, the world is getting closer to futuristic vehicle technology that looks like it’s part of a sci-fi novel of its own.
A big player on this stage is the company Tesla, run by eccentric billionaire (and previous driver of the first car in space) Elon Musk. While their electric cars, like the Tesla 2 and 3, have been around for years, the company made waves in November when they announced the forthcoming release of their pickup, the blocky-looking Cybertruck. But a lot of people don’t realize that years before that, Tesla was in the news for a different truck on their list, which is due to arrive by the end of this year. Have you ever heard of the Tesla Semi?
Built to provide an alternative for short- to medium-length hauling journeys, the Semi is a semi-autonomous vehicle capable of hauling loads up to 800 km on one charge of its engines. In true Tesla fashion, it is all electric, using a complement of four proprietary motors independently attached to the rear axles, giving a surprising amount of power – initial tests show that even on a 5% uphill grade, the Semi can maintain a speed of 100 km/h. Beyond that, it has enough acceleration to go from stopped to 100 km/h in just five seconds when unloaded, and 25 seconds with its trailer fully loaded to 36,000 kilograms. Gone are the days of weak electric motors, because the Semi packs some serious power.
But what about the details? Prototypes of the Semi had the driver’s seat in the centre of the cab, allowing for greater visibility, but did not feature a sleeping area or bed in the back (though there is a removable seat for passengers). Instead of instrument panels, there are just touchscreens to either side of the steering wheel; if you step outside, the sleek design gives the whole vehicle a drag coefficient of just 0.36 – lower than a Bugatti! Unfortunately, at this time, it seems as though the price of the vehicle only includes the tractor component and not a trailer, though the specifics will have to be finalized closer to the release date.
And as for the “autopilot” feature, the trucks are not fully self-driving, and the website even explicitly says that a human driver must be present and remain aware of the road – but each Semi will have a large amount of radar devices and cameras that allow it to stay in lane, keep back from other cars, warn drivers of hazards, implement emergency braking, and so on.
And speaking of braking, regenerative braking will help restore energy back to the batteries as you drive, allowing for great energy efficiency. Combined with big plans for “megachargers” that Tesla wants to implement around the country, it could mean that a drained battery gets an 80% charge – a range of 600+ km – on just half an hour of charging time.
While some of this sounds too good to be true, and time may prove that it could be, at the moment it seems like there’s something worth getting excited about. As electric vehicles take up more and more of the market in the years to come, even the biggest of long-haul trucks is bound to have a challenger. And with a predicted manufacture date for the end of this year, we may not even have to wait that much longer to find out.