When we think of Tesla, the company not the individual, what comes to mind? Innovation? Elon Musk? The next evolution of the automotive industry?

The latter is what we’re discussing today. Tesla is known for their massive impact in the electric automobile market. They’ve done a lot in terms of putting electric vehicles on the road beyond just test phases or controlled prototype cruises.

Thanks to companies like Tesla, drivers can complete their commute and their vacation while leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Electric batteries. That’s the deciding factor when it comes to Tesla’s modern catalog. They’ve steadily mastered the early battery concept, making electric cars just as reliable as their diesel-guzzling counterparts.

But when we think of Tesla’s electric cars, passenger vehicles may come to mind. That does make up a big portion of their market segment – but it isn’t all they offer. No, on the contrary, they’ve branched out into a completely new segment of the automotive market.

The commercial trucking industry is one of the most important in the world. In a country like the US, it represents a major source of jobs and the nation’s preferred freight modality. But the massive engines in these vehicles are catching more flack, especially in the green age.

Enter the Tesla semi – a fully-functional electric semi-truck prepared to bridge the gap between efficient truck driving and responsible care for the environment.

The Concept: What Led to the Tesla Semi?

When we look at major innovations in the market, it can be easy to casually assume they were always there. But we know technology progresses at a certain rate, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, and sometimes in between.

But the story behind the Tesla semi isn’t just about cracking the code behind a curious technology with big prospective benefits. Instead, it’s about learning what a critical industry wants and how to bring it into the creation phase in a cost-efficient manner.

Trucking has been facing greater environmental scrutiny over the years. While the massive containers they haul make it easy to bring massive amount of freight, it takes a very powerful engine to haul such a load.

That type of weight means the engine has to work hard – so a lot of fossil fuel emissions are to be expected. For over a decade now, trucking has dealt with environmental pressures. But carriers aren’t just getting pressured by eco advocates and government agencies – they’re putting pressure on themselves.

Many carriers and prominent trucking groups see the benefits of going electric. It’s a cost-cutting matter, at its core. While carriers may want to conserve the environment, they also want to conserve their revenue. Having to cough up thousands of dollars each month for fuel isn’t something they want to continue.

The question has always remained, though – is there a way to make the electric truck as efficient as the traditional diesel-powered rig? In a word? Yes. And Tesla is one of the companies leading the way forward.

Today we’ll examine the specs and construction behind the Tesla semi. We’ll examine its electric components and see how they measure up to traditional engines, as well as how the truck’s overall design works for commercial applications.

A Closer Look at the Tesla Semi’s Spec and Design

Tesla starts off in marketing mode on the electric semi’s website – the opening text advertises it as the safest, most comfortable truck ever. That’s a lofty title to lay on anything, especially by the manufacturer. But can they back up those claims?

Full disclosure, the pool of electric trucks available for commercial use is much smaller than the pool of diesel-powered trucks. But among those models on the market now, Tesla’s offering has some of the most impressive hardware components.

For starters, there are four independent motors designed to provide maximum pulling power at the lowest possible cost. In terms of the actual performance stats of the engine, they are as follows:

  • 0-60 MPH acceleration in 20 seconds (with 80,000 total load)
  • Energy consumption of less than 2kWh per mile
  • 0.36 drag coefficient
  • 60 MPHG speed up a 5-percent grade
  • Mile range of 300-500, depending on cargo weight

These are the basics, and such stats are possible thanks to the independent motors and rear axles compromising a robust electric powertrain.

The engine performance of a commercial truck is extremely important. Given these vehicles are used by businesses and use much more often, it is important for them to be energy efficient. But this isn’t the only factor that matters when it comes to commercial trucks.

Safety is also a big concern in the industry. There’s a lot of damage to be done by an 80,000-pound steel behemoth tearing down the road at any speed. Safety features not only protect the driver, but they protect the motoring public they share the roads with.

What Safety Features Does Tesla’s Semi Offer?

When we think about safety features in modern Tesla vehicles, we often think about the high-tech driver-assistance tools. The Tesla semi certainly has some of these, but they don’t rely solely on them.

Even the console itself is designed with safety in mind. For example, a centered driver position offers advanced control and visibility. This means drivers can have a greater view of the road and obstacles around them, plus the bonus of rollover protection thanks to the low center of gravity.

Like Tesla’s electric passenger vehicles, their semi has autopilot to help avoid collisions. But while the system is designed to detect obstructions, Tesla emphasizes that the driver must still maintain an alertness whenever they’re behind the wheel.

There have been many well-publicized accidents involving self-driving kits and autonomous technology. Being that Tesla is one of the leaders in this field, it is only natural they would be represented in these negative statistics as well. One accident occurred back in 2015, when a driver lost their life in a fatal crash while piloting a Tesla Model S with the autopilot system activated.

Tesla has responded to instances like this by saying their systems require drivers to be ready to respond to hazards when the system detects them. But even with that preliminary warning, it is likely this feature means less to commercial truckers than a cost-efficient electric powertrain.

Though it doesn’t count under the safety category in the traditional sense, being able to save thousands of dollars a month can help carriers ensure their future. This allows them to safeguard their own companies and the environment simultaneously.

Could the Tesla Semi Save the Trucking Industry?

The trucking industry may not be in trouble in terms of freight demand – those numbers are soaring, and reaching levels not seen in a long time. But despite soaring demand, there are a growing number of concerns.

The first is that the industry can’t seem to find enough drivers. And this boils down to a few factors – lackluster pay, aging equipment, and safety concerns. Drivers simply aren’t willing to give in to the rigorous schedule and tight regulations for the pay and work environment they’re currently being offered.

The addition of electric semis to carriers’ fleets means those same carriers could save a lot of money. This leaves more they can reinvest in driver pay and benefits. Such a move would help greatly with retention and staffing efforts for carriers of all sizes.

Aging equipment is also a hazard. Not only does it make drivers less safe, but it can slow them down and thus mean less money within the same workday. In order to bring in new drivers and stop carriers from losing out on potential hires, fleets must be upgraded.

While making the jump to electric semis can seem like a giant leap in some ways, it could be the solution carriers need to upgrade their equipment in a cost-efficient manner. And with electric trucks being touted on their safety merits, these changes could be a great way to make the industry less dangerous.

The trucking industry is still going, but it has seen easier times. This means the introduction of a reliable electric semi could be the catalyst necessary to speed up progress.

How Soon Will the Widespread Adoption of Electric Semis Happen?

There may come a time when trucking companies of all sizes depend primarily on electric semis to make their deliveries. It may seem far off now, but as the technology grows faster in the coming years it will become a reality.

It could be years or even decades before we see as many electric engines as diesel-powered engines in trucking. But that also means there is more time for people to learn about the offerings from companies like Tesla – and to learn how they could help their trucking companies.

Carriers have to manage expenses and calculate risk carefully. That means going with a new technology, especially for the bulk of their fleets, can seem dangerous. But a company like Tesla builds great products and may earn the full trust of the trucking industry soon.

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