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Tesla Semi. Image courtesy of Tesla.

Clean Transport

Tesla Semi — 10-4, Good Buddy?

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The first deliveries of the Tesla Semi were made last Thursday evening to a good amount of fanfare at Tesla’s factory in Sparks, Nevada. The Tesla Semi was first unveiled as a prototype in 2017. Five long years later, the first deliveries took place, ending with Tesla handing over the keys to the first production trucks to PepsiCo and Frito-Lay.

It makes sense that the presentation covered the trucks’ very impressive specs and that they touched on how the vehicle would be beneficial to trucking companies (saving them gobs of money), the Earth, and, in general provide a better experience for truck drivers.

But a big question remains: Will truck drivers embrace this new and shiny electric marvel?

I guess I was sufficiently obsessed with the Tesla Semi leading up to and following the streamed event that Facebook suggested the site Drive United to me. According to the site, Drive United is “committed to ensuring our drivers are rewarded for their hard work through exceptional pay, benefits, equipment and recognition programs.” It is a popular social media destination, as it has almost 150,000 people liking it.

So, when the Drive United post showed up for me, it was for the Tesla Semi. The first thing I noticed is that they had a doctored photo that takes the sleek-looking Tesla Semi and makes it pretty hideous (kind of like if the Tesla Semi took steroids for a year). But then, it was quite interesting to read the comments. While there were some folks open to the possibilities of an electric big-rig future, a great deal of the comments went like this:

Trucker Josh said: “I wish they’d make it look like a normal truck. I don’t want to drive whatever that is…”

Mary Ann Tomes said: “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Kevin Marshall chose to be funny: “Care to test the windows,” with a nod to the Cybertruck unveiling where the smash-proof windows were indeed smashed with a steel ball.

Krag Anderson gets the award for the most false statements in a single post by stating: “Need huge landfills to accommodate the old batteries that can’t be recycled! The whole truck constructed with materials derived from fossil fuels. The products used to make the batteries will run out long before we run out of fossil fuels.”

And Jerry Noe shouts: “DIESEL IS AMERICA!!!!”

So, this raises the question of whether truckers will give the Tesla Semi a chance. Well, with cost savings being so dramatic (it is about 83 percent cheaper to drive and haul goods with a Tesla Semi than with a standard diesel truck, and there is probably also a significant reduction in cost due to much less maintenance), the truck may be poised to disrupt the trucking industry whether drivers are ready or not.

There are plenty of folks who are enamored with the “normal” way of trucking. The diesel, grime, and gears are part of their trucking mystique. We see this in those who say they would never consider an electric pickup truck, too. This sentiment is quite prevalent here in Kentucky, where it is common to see the black “Friends of Coal” license plate on a great number of cars. In fact, those plates are on many Teslas now, too!

Though, if any of these anti-EV patriots are arguing that electric is un-American, I can’t think of a fuel that is more American than domestically-produced coal or the wide variety of renewables that are produced locally. In fact, even powered by coal, EVs are dramatically cleaner than their diesel and gas counterparts.

So, just like with passenger vehicles, education is job #1. And now, fighting misinformation ranks up there as a priority. It is unfortunate that many choose to be closed off to new and better ways when it comes to the transportation sector.

Thank goodness for the PepsiCos and Frito-Lays of the world. Giving a chance to something that will benefit our communities’ collective health and the wellness of our common home seems like what we should be doing. 10-4, Good Buddy?

Related stories: Tesla Semi archives

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Written By

Stuart Ungar has been interested in how technology can help us live lighter on the Earth for most of his life and remembers going on solar house tours as a kid in the ‘70s with his dad (and having to travel many miles to see each site). Stuart is the co-founder of Evolve KY, Kentucky’s non-profit electric vehicle group and has a brand new podcast — Stu’s EV Universe, which can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other major platforms. Stuart lives with his wife and college-age kids in Louisville, Kentucky.


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