The Tesla Semi Parades Begin (Videos)

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Sightings of a Tesla Semi here or there have become more frequent lately — it’s inching out of the R&D lab and onto the streets! The all-electric battery-powered Class 8 semi-trailer truck is taking its first steps … um, drives … and the crowds are loving it.

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The Tesla Semi is planned for production by the end of 2020, but that hasn’t stopped the all-electric truck from making appearances around town. On June 29, 2019, the Semi ran in the San Francisco gay pride parade. Cozette Aviles exclaimed, “Pride means freedom of expression and celebrating it with folks who celebrate the same things as you.” Well, if sharing and collegiality are important, then the Tesla Semi’s participation endorsed LGBTQ awareness and identity that day and made lots of new friends.

Corporate endorsements of gay pride in San Francisco are common. As it has done in years past, Apple also marched in this year’s parade, which is one of the bigger Pride events in the country and which sees nearly 100,000 spectators annually. Apple employees appeared in the parade with a large sign that showcased a rainbow version of the Apple logo.

Wasn’t It Only Yesterday That The Tesla Semi Was Revealed?

Doesn’t it seem like Tesla CEO Elon Musk only recently unveiled the Tesla Semi at a fabulous company event? Actually, that announcement took place way back in November 2017, and it was in March 2018 when Musk publicized that the Semi was being tested with real cargo, hauling battery packs from Nevada to California. Later, in August, 2018, a Tesla Semi prototype drove without any escort or accompanying vehicles for a week, arriving safely at the J.B Hunt headquarters in Arkansas.

The Semi, with its standard Tesla Autopilot, allows semi-autonomous driving on highways.

Powered by a massive battery and capable of hauling 80,000 pounds, the truck can muster a nearly 500 mile range on a full charge. That duration comes after an 80% charge for 30 minutes at a solar-powered “Tesla Megacharger” charging station.

The truck uses 4 independent electric motors that are derived from the Model 3. Energy consumption should be less than 2 kWh per mile when allowing for fuel savings. That, and having fewer systems to maintain, the Tesla Semi provides $200,000+ in fuel savings and a 2-year payback period. As Tesla VP of Automotive Jerome Guillen recently told CleanTechnica, Tesla intends to first use the Semi for its own needs — something Jerome is very excited about.

Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

With a single gear, those electric motors operate independently to power its rear wheels. “It’s smooth. It’s just like driving a Tesla,” said CEO Elon Musk at the truck’s unveiling event. “It’s as though you’re driving a Model S, a Model X, or Model 3 — it’s just big.”

Described by the company as having acceleration of 0–60 mph with 80,000 lb in 20 seconds, the Semi should have the quickest acceleration, fully loaded, of any shipping hauler. Its instant traction control with the 4 rear axle independent motors will make the the Semi “quickest up the grades,” including speed up a 5% grade.

Tesla Semi
Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Musk has said that the expected price of regular production versions for the 300- and-500-mile versions would be $150,000 and $180,000, respectively. Base reservations require a $20,000 down payment. The company also offers a Founder’s Series Semi at $200,000.

New gas trucks begin at around $80,000 and run up to $150,000 or more, are constant fuel guzzlers, and also are some of the most egregious emitters of pollution into the environment. The role modeling that the Tesla Semi offers has real potential to change those consumptive patterns.

What We Know So Far About The Tesla Semi — Up Close, That Is

The cherry red Tesla Semi pulls into a parking space and pauses. A passenger jumps out, skips back and to the right of the rig, then waves at the shadowed driver. The rig spins and pivots and curls back into a wide parking space with charger at the rear. It is incredibly silent when it backs up.

The look on the road is streamlined and sleek — the carbon fiber cab is a blend of smooth lines. Tesla promises the Semi will cut through the wind more efficiently than some sports cars.

Because a mere 10% reduction in aerodynamic drag improves highway fuel economy by approximately 5% and improves city fuel economy by approximately 2%, the Auto Research Center argues that, as more and more vehicles like the Tesla Semi are hybridized and regenerative braking reduces the effect of weight, the proportion of total losses coming from truck aerodynamics will increase. They say even for the conventional wisdom that says truck aerodynamics are only really important for line haul where average speeds are high, “both intermodal and P&D cycles do incorporate some high speed driving aerodynamics,” making it important for them as well.

The nose of the cab is a vertical slab, and the main seat is far forward so the driver can see the ground just in front of the vehicle. The cab is about 6’6” tall, allowing even tall individuals to stand up inside. The suicide doors stretch from the bottom to the top of the cab, making access extra easy.

The driver utilizes two 15-inch touchscreens, one on either side, to handle navigation, data logging for hours of service and other accounting procedures, and blind spot monitoring, according to Torque News. One sole button operates the hazard lights, in so that all other functions are completed through one of the two screens or 2 two stalks that splinter off the 3-spoke steering wheel.

You decide if the door handles are identical for the Tesla Semi and the Model 3:

Final Thoughts

Why is there such momentum lately to move to electric trucks? Well, traditional trucks are particularly toxic. “Heavy-duty vehicles make up a small fraction of the vehicles on the road but a large fraction of their emissions,” Jimmy O’Dea, who studies clean vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Wired magazine. In California, that category (which includes buses as well as trucks) accounts for 7% of total vehicles but produces 20% of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and 1/3 of all NOx emissions, which are the causes of asthma and respiratory illnesses.

All-electric energy shipping costs are half those of diesel. So every truck that moves with electricity instead of diesel has an outsized effect on the health of the planet. Eighteen-wheelers can truly make an exponential difference.

Tesla says the Semi is the safest, most comfortable truck ever. The reinforced windshield glass is protected from chipping or cracking. Onboard sensors seek early signs of jackknifing and adjust power to the individual wheels to keep everything in line. The Tesla Semi’s battery is reinforced to keep it from exploding or catching fire in the event of a crash. Enhanced Autopilot helps avoid collisions, a centered driver position provides maximum visibility and control, and a low center of gravity offers rollover protection.

So, what’s the scoop on a pickup truck version of the Tesla Semi? That’s the fodder for a future article, once we start seeing the Tesla Pickup tooling around our roads.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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