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Darth Vader or not, the Tesla truck changes everything

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Tesla founder and  CEO Elon Musk has become one of the best known people on the planet through his extraordinary ability to make the future look cool. And created enormous wealth for a company that has still to spin a profit.

But it is with the newly unveiled Tesla truck, with all its Darth Vader comparisons (particularly in darker hues), that Musk has torn down the final frontiers of the campaign against the clean energy transition – cost. And doing that, he has gone to the very heartland of its resistance: the trucking industry.

Like his previous electric cars, the Roadster, the Model S, Model X, and Model 3, Musk has rolled out a product that is smarter, cleaner and safer, as well as aspirational.

What’s not to like about a truck that doesn’t jack-knife, can do 0-100kms in 6 seconds (without load), can go up inclines at a steady 100kms (with load), has a cool centralised driving position, wrap-around armoured glass windows, touch screens, and doesn’t pollute.

Source: Tesla

Source: Tesla

But the killer is the cost. By offering savings of 20 per cent or more, Musk is making electric trucks a no-brainer for the road transport industry, where every un-necessary detour, or rapid braking or acceleration is an assault on already fine margins.

We have written before about the potential for the Tesla truck to turn the freight industry on its head, and one of the key analysts quoted in that report, Morgan Stanley, says the actual product is better than they had expected.

The Tesla truck, they note, beats diesel trucks in just about every measurable way.

“Many questioned whether the Tesla truck would have the range, performance and payload to be able to match current diesel trucks, but the numbers cited by Tesla should comfortably allay such fears,” the Morgan Stanley analysts write.

The key – apart from features mentioned above – is the range, with a 500 mile (800km) option (fully loaded), and a 300 mile option, a network of “megachargers” that will be able to give the truck 400 miles of range in 30 minutes, all wheel drive capability.

Source: Tesla

Source: Tesla

What’s more, unlike the its competitors, the Tesla truck will be a full class 8 vehicle, not a class 7 like its EV peers. This makes it the industry’s first true Class 8 EV truck.

The savings are real. The all-in costs, including lease, are 20 per cent cheaper than a diesel truck, and around 50 per cent cheaper if operating in a “platoon” – where trucks follow closely another in semi-autonomous mode.

Tesla claims significantly lower maintenance costs (similar to EV passenger cars) and is offering charging at fixed electricity prices, thus virtually guaranteeing operating costs for truck fleet operators and 1 million miles of break-down free use.

Tesla base claims are for $US200,000+ in fuel savings and a two-year payback period for the truck. Morgan Stanley anticipates significant utilisation benefits on top of this, with quick pay-back on smart controls that could be added. (See table).

tesla add ons

Again, as we noted at the original launch of the Model 3 – see Tesla’s Elon Musk just killed the petrol car – it matters little whether Tesla itself manages to pull this off, or crumbles under the weight of the extraordinary targets set by Musk, and simply runs out of money and share market confidence.

That’s because Tesla has already changed two trillion-dollar industries for ever: transport and electricity.

Since Tesla first wheeled out the Model S, the vehicle industry has been turned on its head.

Virtually every other car maker has now pledged to focus on EVs, and the big economies are giving the laggards little choice: France and England have vowed to phase out new sales of petrol and diesel cars, and India and China – choked by pollution – may soon follow.

Tesla is changing the electricity industry too, as the new report from the office of Alan Finkel highlights. The knowledge and enthusiasm of consumers for battery storage and distributed energy is driven almost entirely by what they have heard of the Tesla brand, and its Powerwall and Powerpack batteries.

“I think we can’t underestimate the … Tesla implications. Tesla batteries are the sexy looking batteries….. Digital media is becoming more and increasingly prevalent, so people want the new gismo as part of their household future,” the report cites one interview.

Which is not to say that  everyone will buy Tesla batteries, or Tesla cars or trucks. They might find cheaper or more suitable alternatives.

But the batteries – along with the plunging costs of solar and other renewables – help cause a major rethink about the way electricity is delivered; from fossil fuels to renewables, and from centralised generation to decentralised and consumer power.

It has caused energy market designers to more readily embrace the idea of 100 per cent renewable energy – or as near as – for their grids. And with battery storage, and much of the investment eagerly taken by by households and business, the cost is vastly reduced.

So, as Morgan Stanley notes, Tesla does have a lot on its plate.

“Tesla has the lineup and the ambition – it’s now time to deliver,” it notes.

“Between the Model 3 rollout, the gigafactory, the Semi and the Roadster (not to mention the upcoming Model Y and pickup, which Tesla also teased at the event), Tesla has its hands full for the next 3 years.”

That is more about its own fortunes. Its impact on broader industries – cars, trucks, freight, storage and energy – is already profound.

  

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  • john

    I know for sure this truck will find a ready market in short delivery for quarry work where in traffic this truck will result in more deliveries per day than any other truck.
    Currently short delivery trucks use low ratio gearing to give them stop start ability however this drive train can cover that better than any thing else.
    The same truck can be used for longer distance travel and with the rules in place for rest periods it will fit in nicely with the rules in place.

  • Chris Drongers

    This, which includes platooning multiple trucks under control of a single driver as well as fast charge and electric drive, may kill off any major revival in intercity heavy rail transport on the east coast. Rail has only a couple of years to get governments to move to full cost recovery of road use to avoid being killed off.

    • My_Oath

      We already do it – its called “Road Trains”.

      • Andrew Roydhouse

        True.

        The difference being that it is illegal on major highways but allowed in the outback.

        If the Tesla truck ‘convoy’ works as advertised then the fuel savings would be enormous.

        Computers can maintain perfect separation at the optimum distance and through networking (I don’t think it was mentioned) all trucks can see and react to what is ahead rather than just the front driver as is currently the case on say the Princes Highway.

        After 7pm it can be hair-raising to be a car driver as a convoy of heavy vehicles comes by (above 100kmh) and one of the trucks lurches to the left – forcing you to take evasive action onto the shoulder (if any available).

        • Steven Gannon

          I’ve similar reservations. Also, the benefits will be negated by other traffic to some extent every time. We still have laws against tailgating. In the end I’m sure the technology will be sorted.

          • Andrew Roydhouse

            I do not think the Tesla trucks (once bugs sorted out) will have the issues that the current human controlled trucks tail-gating do.

            Especially late at night/early am you can clearly see the tiredness affecting the long distance truck drivers between Sydney and Melbourne.

            The negative of the improved motor way is that there is that much less to keep them fully awake.

          • technerdx6000

            Tesla Autopilot works best on highways which comes standard on these trucks. The drivers won’t be nearly as fatigued.
            You are right about the platooning, though, the leading truck will call the shots and they can drive so close because they can do things in unison like braking

          • Steven Gannon

            Last time I travelled the Hume at night, one went into the nature strip on a left-hand bend two minutes in front of me. Having said that, I regard it as the best highway in Australia and a great road for trials.
            Maybe it’s time to look at letting E trucks do 110kph to reduce the fatigue factor a bit. Wheels magazine did an experiment 4 yrs ago, they drove Newcastle to Melbourne at 120kph on the divided roads and saved almost two hours.

        • My_Oath

          Are b-doubles banned on the Princes Hwy? Why is that?

          • Andrew Roydhouse

            Not B-doubles but 3 and 4 trailer road-trains.

    • Steven Gannon

      I’m a fan of the inland rail upgrade, there’s too many grain trucks on the road since they let the inland rail lines decay. It’s not just the major highways that are driven on, they have to drive to the port in the city, and the roads out of town are another issue (a strain on council budgets). These roads aren’t as strong as the highways, especially during wet periods.

  • George Michaelson

    I’ve seen feedback in other blogs which raise (trivial) points worth at least thinking about.

    Firstly, a central driving spot won’t necessarily be popular. How do you share with your partner? Side-by-side is strongly culturally embedded, as is some driver-vehicle-road positioning. If you change where the driver is relative to the cab sides, you have to change where the driver mentally positions the rig, relative to the road. So acclimatisation to the rig has a risk window: you don’t just jump into one without a pre-flight check.

    Secondly, where’s the sleeping pod? Drivers need cabs which have room for a sleeping bag, and a place to hang a calendar. If the renders actually show room to build in a second rank seat, and a couchette, I’m missing it.

    • George Darroch

      It’s not suited to long haul trucking, certainly. But it hasn’t been built for that – round trips between city pairs, or day-long intra-city transport covers the large majority of use-cases.

      The driver is close enough to the doors and windows that they’ll enjoy the visibility and lack of blind spots in this vehicle. It might take a little transition, but it doesn’t seem like a barrier to uptake.

      • Steven Gannon

        It’s all mirrors in a truck anyway.

        • Carl Raymond S

          And the mirrors here are digital, on the twin displays. No blind spots.

      • rob

        Why isn’t it suited to long haul trucking? it has a range of 621 miles….. that’s 996.5 Kilometres. Half hour to recharge for another 600 Km….surely even a long haul trucker needs a 1/2 hour pit stop after driving 1000 Km?

        • Steven Gannon

          It’s basically 15mins after 5hrs, 30mins after 8. If memory serves, you can only do about 11hrs in a 24hr period. They’ll be timing their breaks for recharges I bet.

        • Peter Foster

          The artical stated 500 mile 800 kilometer range not 621 miles with a 30 minute ((ha,ha) plus an hour or two in the que) another 400 miles and this would depend on day/night driving. The truck I drive barely qualifys as long haul, which does with 2 drivers/each a 12 hour shift, over 1000 miles a day, seven days a week, is on the road for around 11 hours per shift with 2 by 15 minute and 1 by 30 minute compulsory rest breaks more often than not in the middle of no where, hauling perishables with a shop shelf life of about 72 hours.Trailers are quick hitch ( unhook one trailer hook up to next trailer and go), so there is not much time to do a quick charge let alone a full one. So unless they put a mega charger in EVERY transport depot, rest area, and fuel stop it isn’t suited for long haul express, which most of the long distance freight consists of, because the consumer and that is you, want fresh food today, your ebay purchases yesterday, and everything else now, your mail, food, courier services and even your car are transported in this manner. It would put more trucks on the road as well as these trucks would not be suitable for B-Doubles, so for each B-Double you would have two on the road. And don’t even go down the supply side of the electricity besides the chargers with blackouts from grid failure and damage from storms etc.

          • Horst

            Everything you say is true, now, but even if some of these problems take years to iron out, solved they will be. And I’m not sure you caught the fact that these are close to fully autonomous vehicles, and it is only at version 1.
            The age of the trucker as a profession is pretty much at the end. And the change will be much faster than for passenger cars because trucks are not driven for leisure or vanity, so there is no emotional resistance to change.

          • Peter Foster

            So these autonomous trucks are going to unload/load themselves at unmanned depots, change flat tyres, plug themselves in when they need charging, do trailer swaps and the endless other manual jobs. No matter how good programmers get I doubt they will ever take the human element out of the transport industry just reduce human input but there will still be a human there, the real world just won’t let it happen. And by the way there is a huge amount of emotion and vanity in the transport industy, for some guys these trucks are their homes, and at the very least spend the greater part of their lives in them, pride in their ride is right up there with any car buff and in some cases a lot more, their kids can named around the trucks eg Ken ( Kenworth), Mack, Star (Western Star) and Diesel, etc, so you don’t get much more emotion than that. As far as a profession goes I will be long retired before it happens.

    • Ron Horgan

      I would be surprised if the control panel lacked an active position envelope and warning radar. The seating position could then be anywhere.

  • Cooma Doug

    I used to say at work in the 1990s solar with battery at home will be a game changer. I was told by three industry CEOs who did a tour of our control centre, ” you are dreaming”. They laughed and said “renewables will never provide more than 2%. It cant be done.” When I moved onto a concept of overdue load side management, the body language to my CEO from them was….lock this guy up.
    The situation now makes me happy about looking a long way ahead. The stand out game changer emerging for me is artificial intelligence.
    It already exists to some extent in the grid control and market technology. But at the moment it isnt like emerging AI.

    Imagine a control network that can spontaneously control and write its own algortlithms in milli second time frames. A system
    a million times more capable than the status quo now.

    The same technology wave is hitting the transport industry, medical and for Gods sale Journalism.
    The last thing we will want on the road in 30 years is a human driver.

    • Steven Gannon

      Were you involved with the Rainbow Power Company?

      • Cooma Doug

        No.
        Started with electricity commission of nsw in 1971.

    • Alan S

      I’m guessing that you work for the Snowy: Do you know how long it takes for a generator (Tumut 3 if possible) to start generating from running in synchronous condenser mode ie online but no water going through?

      • Cooma Doug

        The units are bid in on fcas market and mode change on frequency excursion. Eg 49.85 hz might be the figure. Not much needs to happen. Already synchronised so the main valve opens and the process to generate is under a minute centainly under 90 sec to be applying high load.
        I have seen three mode change when three large coal gens went down and deliver 750 mw 2min maybe.
        Seen a similar thing when the Newcastle earth quake happenned in 1990 think it was. But those days we required phone calls and operator initiation. Still quick.
        The other value is the high level of inertia in the large multi ton rotors that assists the recovery in the early hit. Also capable of quick mode change to gen from pump which takes a little longer because there are more valve opps required. But that is a rare requirement given the pumping is in low load times.
        The Snowy 2 system will have so much available inettia and response with the pumping and available syncons.

        • Alan S

          Thanks. and for bonus points – do you know how much electrical equivalent storage is in the Talbingo Reservoir – Tumut 3 PS – Jounama Pondage loop? I assume the limiting factor is the capacity of Jounama so that would be between high and low water with no release to Blowering.

          • Cooma Doug

            There are limits to how quick release changes from Jounama can happen. But it doesnt restrict generation. Talbingo has 160 gl active storage. T3 generates 0.36 gwhr per
            Glitre. Can go straight to 1800 mw from zero in a few minutes. There will be a need for airspace in talbingo for Snowy 2 but because of the head being approx 3 times the T3 head it will generate 1 Gwh per GL. There will be a few simple efficiency issues to manage to integrate Snowy 2 generation and pumping with normal T3 process but its simple easy safe stuff?

  • Harry

    What’s the cost of the truck and what’s its payload?

    • rob

      the payload is the maximum allowable in the USA……Price I have no idea

      • Harry

        No the payload is the difference between the unladen truck and the loaded truck.
        It can vary from vehicle to vehicle.

        • rob

          Can you not read? This truck is the largest truck available in the USA. Its payload is the maximum allowable under US legislation!

          • Harry

            Yes I can read and as I thought no one knows what the payload of this unit is

          • rob

            80,000 pounds……the maximum allowed in the USA

            PAYLOAD not including the TRUCK

          • Harry

            So if the payload is as you say 80000 pounds and the truck,trailer driver and fuel etc. weigh 20,000 pound I’ll guarantee you that unit will be 20000 over weight

          • Harry

            So if I pull into a weighbridge do they take the load off (ie payload )and weigh that or do they weigh the whole unit?

          • Carl Raymond S

            So you are saying that the truck can weigh any extreme amount, and the payload it may carry is still 80,000lb? I’ve heard many people say otherwise – i.e. That the heavier the truck, the less the payload. When they check into the weigh station, they weigh the lot. If you are over the max for that class of vehicle, you’re busted.

          • rob

            CORRECT!

          • Carl Raymond S

            Well it seems to be different outside of the US. I’ve heard that a heavier truck eats into payload here, and probably in Europe.

          • Carl Raymond S

            Musk actually says 80,000lb GROSS weight, so either you or Musk are correct.

          • Wallace

            US limit is 80,000 lbs Gross. Truck, trailer, and load. Standard 18-wheeler and dual axle trailer.

            There are some trailer designs which have more wheels and are allowed to carry a heavier load. And a tandem trailer carries a heavier load.

    • Steven Gannon

      Go to ‘clean tech bites’, hit ‘more’ and scroll down a handful to the article on the unveiling.

      • Harry

        The only thing I can find is where he says the truck has a capacity of 80,000 pounds. Thats the equivalent of an Australian truckand trailer legally being allowed to weigh 42.5 tonnes. However the unladen weight of the prime mover and trailer could vary quite considerably.
        How someone can work out the economics of the Tesla truck without knowing the cost price and payload staggers me

        • Steven Gannon

          Tesla has crunched the numbers I assume. I think I see what you’re getting at, the prime-mover could weigh a lot more than a conventional one (very likely too). The moot point is that it can haul the same as a conventional one and is cheaper to run.

          The equation pointing out the savings/km is the most pertinent figure, it makes the purchase cost less relevant. I’m sure we’d all like to know the price tag though.

        • Steven Gannon

          It says “a load of 36 tonnes.” This is getting amusing, I made a similar oversight when reading that article and now I’m trying to make it clear to you. I hope you are not the same Harry I’ve seen pop up recently on another comment thread, he was a troll, are you?

          • Peter Foster

            Just playing the devils advocate!
            Trucks in Australia and USA are weighed in the same way ( tonnes per axle group ). 80,000LBS = 36.28 metric tonnes, 35.71 tons (long) or 40 tons (short).
            80,000 lbs is the maxium overall a class 8 truck can weigh (Prime mover/tractor, trailer and load combined).In Australia it is 42.5 metric tonnes or 93,697 lbs.
            So if you take a kenworth prime mover/ tractor which weighs between 17,000lbs and 22,000lbs (taken from Kenworth specs) depending on set up (short or long haul), lets go down the middle of the road (pardon the pun) at 19,500lbs minus the weight of an cummins isx15 diesel engine (3200lbs) and add (for sake of the discussion) 4 battery packs (1 pack for each motor) from the Model S (1200lbs each) 4800lbs in total, the prime mover/tractor is already 1600lbs heavier, but wait we need an motor or 4 again from the Model S (70lbs each) another 280lbs total, this makes it 1880lbs heavier than a diesel equivilant, ((remember weights for the battery and elec motors are from the Model S) Battery packs and Motors will have to be far bigger and heavier for use in heavy haul vehicles to achieve the required torque, horsepower speeds and distances claimed ). The 1880lbs is 1880lbs less freight the truck can carry, so heavier motors and bigger battery packs will be eating into the weight of the freight hauled and that = $ lost. Just to put it into prospective the configeration described above is 10% heavier for the Prime mover/ Tractor, and that comes off the payload, and every pound of payload counts, as that is the thing that pays the bills and buys the the equipment, it is not going to solve anything saving 20% on running costs if you can only haul 80% the freight because the truck without its load is 20% heavier and they will be, so increased profits NIL. Taking the words from an Australian movie (The Castle)”Tell him he is dreaming”

          • Steven Gannon

            Thanks Peter. It’ll be a game changer soon enough anyway.
            I’m thinking faster turnarounds will occur on most of the long-hauls because of the superior torque getting them over the hills, you’ve got to consider wages too. That will negate some of it and the talk of getting up to a 40% weight reduction for the batteries will shake things up if/when it happens. Cheers.

          • Peter Foster

            I’m not a techno phobic but being in the industry I have some concerns that statements and promises are being made that just can’t be met. Pretty simple really, who is going to swap out the trailers, or who is going to plug it in when it needs charging especially on the road, or change flat tyres, and they don’t unload themselves, negotiate roadworks, hazards like loads or part loads lost off other vehicles, and smoke from burn offs, flooded roads, tropical storms, and if it blows a steer tyre ! well no programmer is going to put together an algorithm to control the truck because every time it happens its different, and I have had two in my time and both were close enough to brand new, (manufacture fault). Going a little faster up a hill isn’t going to cut it in the real world, and they are still going to need a human to at least do the manual work. Now before you say I am worried about my job, I’m not, I will be long retired before this all happens. As for the 40% reduction in battery weight, using the example I used of 4 Model S battery packs it will only bring the weight to match the weight of current prime mover/ tractor, but the battery packs will have to be a hell of a lot bigger than that, and the motors a lot bigger and heavier to deliver on their performance and reliabilty promises, which will make them heavier therefore reducing payload and that means lost dollars.

          • Steven Gannon

            Thanks again.

          • juxx0r

            Also remove the diffs, the gearbox, the exhaust, the radiator, the fuel tanks.

          • Peter Foster

            To achieve the performance and distances quoted at the unveilling it has been estimated it would need 1000 kwh at a consumtion of 2 kwh per mile, if using Model 3 battery packs (75kwh)as stated it will need at least 13 packs at 1200lbs per pack = 15600lbs, that is the weight of all the componants you mention times 2 and another 1200lbs for good measure, that makes my previous post look good.

        • Roger Brown

          There is 2 trucks at the launch .

  • Robert Comerford

    I hope that Elon does a similar disruption to the container ship.
    Even if Tesla go bottom up at some time, they have been prominent in fanning the fires of disruptions in several key areas. Elon and Tesla should be well remembered by future generations.

    • Ren Stimpy

      Tesla are not going to go bottom up. They have some temporary production and cash flow issues but they also have what every single company in the entire world wants – massive demand for their company’s specific products. That’s a good problem to have (not quite being able to meet popular demand for your products), not a bad problem. They also have very good management and I’m not just talking about Musky. Although he’s quite good at knowing who to hire.

  • CAL_Sparty

    OMG, cannot believe you are buying all this without any further thought or research.
    Just take your mind off of Model 3 delays and the $620M loss from Q3.

    Electric Trucks and Buses – done! see wirghtspeed.com, proterra.com, byd.com, https://motivps.com
    NAvistar with Fedex in 2010.

    Platooning trucks – done! see https://peloton-tech.com/

    This is the Greatest Show on Earth with suckers born every minute as PT Barnum would say.

    • Ian

      Fair enough but check the record of tesla – its a very much more capable organisation thsn the others . Tesla now taking most orders in luxury car segment in US, and increasing sales for each pcp, gigantic energy storage factory. Reusable rockets…..

    • Thanks for the links. Similar and interesting vehicles like the buses have been around for a while, correct. Nothing matching these specs however. We are just admiring a step in the correct direction.

      What is it you think somebody is buying into? Why is it that we are suckers? You are not clear.

    • Carl Raymond S

      Have not seen anybody other than Tesla offering lock-in mega charger contracts at 7c/kWh. They have the vehicles, the solar, the powerpaks. It’s a three pronged attack that I can’t see anybody matching.

  • RobertO

    Hi All Try another site or 2
    ttps://nikolamotor.com (Semi Prime movers,1 & 2)
    http://nelhydrogen.com/ How they are working on production ideas, including filling stations. Hydrogen will never work (FF to H2 yes but PV to H2 yes)
    http://www.powercell.se/ How they are working on FC for all types of transport (I beleive most cars will be battery with only some cars with FC, ie big city cars battery, small towns away from larger routes some FC, but remote area more FC’s than batteries.
    Bosch are working on PV to H2 and then H2+CO2 to make green liquid fuels.
    To me it looks like PV will be our main supply, and what we do with it is open to ideas

  • Webber Depor

    someone should tell this guy, drawing on blender doesn’t make things real

    • RobertO

      Hi Webber Depor, I argee drawing does not make it real, but all ideas start somewhere and a blender is as good as a roller door, (use the lock mechanism on roller doors to secure the lids on pits was accepted and put into the work I was invovled with).

  • Greg Hudson

    G’Day Giles. WOW it does 100kms (kilometers per second ‘loaded’). I’m impressed. This is faster than an Orionid meteor at 72 kms. Obviously the thermonuclear glass operates as a heat shield as well ? Only joking… 😉