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Musk talks about Tesla semi, more gigafactories, & electric roller skates

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Cleantechnica

It’s not easy following the Pope on stage, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Elon Musk.

He was in Vancouver on Friday to participate in the annual international TED conference and took advantage of the occasion to tease a photo of the upcoming Tesla Semi, talk about building more Gigafactories, and offer a glimpse of how cars in the future could navigate through subterranean tunnels on electric roller skates.

None of what Elon had to say was exactly news, but being the consummate showman he is, Musk could make opening a can of peas seem exciting.

The Tesla Semi

Tesla Semi

Musk told the audience the Tesla Semi will “out-torque” the brawniest diesel-powered big rig. That’s actually no surprise. Great gobs of torque at low rpm are the hallmark of electric motors, which is why they are used on subway cars and locomotives.

Musk says he has driven the prototype and it handles like a sports car. Musk called it “spry” — an adjective seldom applied to Class 8 trucks that stand 12 feet tall.

The headlights shown in the teaser photo resemble the lights found on the front of the Model S and Model X. Styling is of vital importance to everything Tesla does and the Tesla Semi will be no exception. We won’t know what the truck actually looks like until September, when Elon says it will be revealed to the public for the first time. (See: “3 Tesla Unveilings: Model 3 — July, Tesla Semi — Sept, Tesla Pickup — In 18–24 Months (#ElonTweets).”)

4 More Gigafactories

Musk also told the audience at TED2017 that Tesla will likely announce four more Gigafactories before the end of this year, but he offered no hints about where they might be located. An educated guess is one will be in China and another in Europe. Musk was in China two days ago for an unannounced private meeting with Vice Premier Wang Yang.

Tesla is looking for manufacturing partners so it can build automobiles in China. It would help that effort considerably if the batteries for those cars were manufactured in China as well. Hyundai and Kia have both been slapped around by Chinese officials this year because they proposed to power locally produced cars with batteries manufactured in Korea. China let it be know in no uncertain terms that it thought that was a very poor idea.

Recently, a group of engineers in Lithuania put together a highly entertaining video designed to entice Musk to consider their country for a Gigafactory. The video is done completely as a Minecraft project and is very entertaining to watch.

Cars On Electric Roller Skates

Musk is serious about boring tunnels under America to relieve urban congestion. Yesterday, pieces of a new boring machine showed up in the SpaceX parking lot. Musk says he could bore tunnels 30 levels deep if need be. Ordinary mortals (like me) have a hard time understanding exactly how tunnels would work. Musk makes it clearer in a new video.

It shows Teslas driving onto what could be called electric roller skates. Then they are lowered by elevator into the proper tunnel where they speed along underground at speeds up to 105 miles per hour. “You should be able to go from say Westwood to LAX in 5–6 minutes,” said Musk in Vancouver. That same trip on surface streets can take up to an hour during peak traffic periods. Watch the video to see what Elon Musk sees when he dreams at night.

Source: Cleantechnica. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • George Darroch

    A non-fringe electric truck is extremely exciting news. Trucks make up about 20% of transport emissions, and as the electricity generation sector decreases in emissions this will become increasingly important.

    • Tom

      Agreed. Trucks are ideal for electricity – they could carry a few tonnes of batteries without too much trouble; they could regenerate power under braking really well because of their increased momentum, and the torque curve would really suit them.

      The only issue is that they should be able to charge their batteries pretty quickly so that they can stay on the road. You’d want a network of pretty fat 3-phase power cables at loading docks and truck stops to get enough juice into them fast enough. Let’s say a truck had 1000kWh of batteries – it would need 250kW for 4 hours to charge from empty to full. This is 100 times what an ordinary household power point can handle.

      • George Darroch

        I think the plan will be to swap out batteries quickly,

        • Ian

          Truck resistance can be classified as rolling resistance, aerodynamic resistance and inertial resistance. On the long flat and straight highway at 80km/hr inertial resistance is minimal. In the city speeds are much slower and there are stops and starts so inertial resistance plays a more important part. This is where regenerative braking becomes more important.

          This brings to mind a system of containerised freight carried by electric train over long distances, with battery or hybrid type trucks at each end doing the door to door deliveries. It would be the containerised loads swapped from EV truck to electric train and back to EV truck.

  • Brunel

    That road tunnel is a very silly idea.

    Why not build a fast PRT system or people mover from CBD to CBD.

    • turmericLatte

      PRT? CBD? According to Elon : Acronyms Seriously Suck

      • Ruben

        Personal Rapid Transit (pod car) and Central Business District (I thought we used that one in every city).

    • Ruben

      I tend to agree, though this might be aimed at the large “no public transport for me” majority.
      There’d be nothing in the way of a PRT using the same tunnels though.

      • Brunel

        Musk cannot be correct about everything.

        I bet most people in Hong Kong get to study/job by public transport. Ditto Singapore. Maybe Manhattan too.

  • MaxG

    This man (Musk) is simply inspiring!

  • Geoff

    Musk is at least 10-20 years ahead of he’s time. Long may he live. http://blog.ted.com/what-will-the-future-look-like-elon-musk-speaks-at-ted2017/

  • Ian

    Mr Musk thinks with his hands and it’s interesting to reverse engineer his thought processes. What is he trying to solve with tunnels, hyper loops, electric cars and driverless uber-type vehicles? Besides the obvious ‘fossil fuels is bad’ type of thing, there is more. Traffic congestion maybe? I would suggest that both fossil fuel use and congested roads are not the root cause of the problem, commuting is. That is driving to and from work. The world uses about 1 cubic mile of oil a year mostly to get to work in the morning and home again in the evening. That’s just pathetic really. Future generations will ask about our civilisation.” What did those people spend most of their lives doing and what did they burn all that valuable resource for? Future historians will say” They went to work in the morning and came home again in the evening.” You can imagine what those children will say “WTF – how boring!”