By on April 18, 2017

Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

If Tesla CEO Elon Musk knows what’s good for him — and his bottom line — he’ll arrange a product placement in a Hollywood remake of Smokey and the Bandit, probably starring Ryan Reynolds. Maybe that Stifler guy, if he’s still bankable.

America’s electric-only automaker figures it has the conventional EV passenger car and SUV markets covered, so it’s time to fulfill a promise made last year: trucks. Specifically, a pickup and a semi truck, the first of which is due for an unveiling this year.

As the New York Auto Show hoopla died down on Friday, Musk took to Twitter to give a status update on these products.

“Tesla Semi truck unveil set for September,” the CEO tweeted. “Team has done an amazing job. Seriously next level.”

One can only hope that technicians see fit to pipe C.W. McCall’s ‘Convoy’ into that venue.

The new products are part of Musk’s so-called “Master Plan, Part Deux,” which was detailed in a blog post last July. The details were — and still are — scarce, though he made it clear that an expansion into trucking and transit was a key part of Tesla’s future.

“We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate,” Musk wrote.

It’s hard to guess the range of such a vehicle, its cost, or how long a recharging might take. Long-haul trucking companies seem perfectly happy with their diesel-powered fleets, and gassing up certainly beats juicing up a vast battery pack when lost minutes equal dollars. Still, Musk wouldn’t bother if he didn’t feel a market existed. (Or a usable range was achievable).

To make such a vehicle viable, the country’s recharging network would require an upsizing, both in voltage and in real estate.

“Given the happily consolidated nature of the domestic truck manufacturing market, the prospect of a new competitive threat, from a company with previous success in disrupting established industries nonetheless, is undoubtedly unwelcomed news,” wrote Michael Baudendistel, a Stifel Financial Corp. analyst, in a Monday report.

While the commercial truck world worries about disruption from Tesla, light truck producers are keeping an eye on the EV maker’s second planned product. Musk tweeted that the company’s pickup truck will drop the curtain in 18 to 24 months.

Whether the Tesla pickup will debut as a fullsize or midsize remains to be seen, but both markets are extremely healthy. Still, it’s not likely that someone pining for an entry-level Chevrolet Colorado will hold out for an electric model that promises a higher price and the potential for a lighter payload capacity. Using Tesla’s existing products as a guide, it’s easy to see the truck as a four-door, unibody vehicle, similar to Honda’s Ridgeline.

Green appeal remains a fickle thing, so it might not just be west coast landscapers interested in such a model.

[Source: Trucks]

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43 Comments on “You Like Trucks? We’ve Got Two Trucks Coming, Says Tesla...”


  • avatar
    srh

    It’s about time somebody made semi trucks fun to operate.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    The whole point of owning a truck, since truck beds are always empty, is to make a statement of “I am a peasant Republican hillbilly; I support Trump and wasting energy; I love bombing random countries, the military, the countryside; I hate education, the environment, truth and reality”.

    A battery operated truck therefore is not a sensible proposition. I predict sales of roughly 0.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Some commercial accounts might be interested, at the right price. But Elon is used to dealing with his fan boy/girl customer base. When guys whose daily livelihood is based on vehicle function have Teslas, he’ll learn the meaning of reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      scent tree

      GM had no problem moving 500 electric S10’s in the 90s, which is at least slightly better than 0.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      “The whole point of owning a truck, since truck beds are always empty, is to make a statement of “I am a peasant Republican hillbilly; I support Trump and wasting energy;…”

      please, Marc, can I at least say something a LITTLE mean here?
      This is demanding it.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Sooo, which stereotypes are acceptable here. I mean whenever Jack stereotypes immigrants your ilk gets your pantses in a wad.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Big Al From ‘Murica – valid point.
        We saw similar stereotyping in relation to #emptyvessel’s followers, the so called “deplorables”. Instead of trying to understand their grievances they were looked down upon and voted for someone who doesn’t give a sh!t about them but talked a mean game.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “I am a peasant Republican hillbilly..”

      I’m a peasant Democrat Hillbilly and I can’t afford no new truck.

      Thank you for showing me my error while there’s still time!

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “I am a peasant Republican hillbilly; I support Trump and wasting energy; I love bombing random countries, the military, the countryside; I hate education, the environment, truth and reality.”

      Only 5 of those things are true.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      So, in short, owning a truck is about being a mindless, uncritical, intellectually vapid groupie for another band than you?

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        It’s becoming less fashionable to be an elitist left wing bigot, though it’s going to be awhile before some get the memo I’m afraid.

        Anyway, this is good idea! I’m a Republican tree hugging environmentalist and see the potential in this.

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      It’s bad enough to have to own a fuel-efficient car to haul my kids and then also need a truck for towing a trailer. Do I need to go out and buy a Morgan three-wheeler for commuting so I’m not wasting seats or bed space? There are plenty of people who have the attitude you’re stating, but equating that to pickup ownership is a fail. Pickups may have a quantity of poseur owners, but they also have plenty of owners who need them and use them appropriately.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Erikstrawn – exactly. It would cost me more money to own a Leaf so the truck could be used just for truck stuff. There is a reason why crewcab pickups are the dominant market force that they are.

    • 0 avatar
      Salzigtal

      The hippie chicks who vintage Stepside their goat milk to the farmer’s market LOL.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I have to say, I’ll be curious how a Tesla semi is gonna work. Obviously, it’s a complete no-go for the over-the-road market. (The batteries would have to be staggeringly huge and heavy.)

    Yes, there are smaller semis meant for local transport, but they are often used in situations where a full sleeper-cab truck wouldn’t even fit. If you can’t make it any bigger than existing models, where are the batteries going to go? Strap them to the underside of the trailer? If you do that, you now have significant weight restrictions for the cargo, which shrinks the market even further.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      My guess is he’ll have a fleet to deliver batteries from his giggy factory to customers. And maybe some “green” govt accounts will get on board. It’s important to stop sea level rise, Mar-A-Lago could be inundated.

    • 0 avatar
      eggsalad

      What about… and this is purely theoretical…

      Instead of installing superchargers at truck stops, design the big rigs with a swappable battery pack, and have battery-swapping stations at truck stops?

    • 0 avatar
      Stevo

      Sir, I think you are on the right track. There is potential for small footprint electric tractors in seaport operations. Speaking with absolutely no specific knowledge of the industry, I would guess that port operators (often governmental agencies that have carbon reduction goals) would like an electric fleet of trucks to move around containers between ship and rail and storage. Lots of batteries can fit in those small trucks when you don’t need but one seat and total mileage is fairly low each day.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Such short-range tractors are already in use at trucking hubs, intermodal yards and elsewhere, most of them made by that Chinese company that builds so many short-ranged EVs for their domestic markets. Clearly Tesla is out to address the OTR business for trucks (look up Nikola as another brand supposedly attempting the same thing only with a fuel cell range booster.)

        The technology is simple, being almost identical to what railroads are already using minus the big, heavy, prime mover and generators and replacing them with batteries. Moreover, while said railroads use “dynamic braking” to generate waste heat and blow it out into the atmosphere when descending a grade, the truck would use that to recharge the batteries instead, helping to extend its range even in mountainous country.

        The real difference will be what size motor (or motors) you use and how much battery capacity you can build into the truck. When you consider the weight of a cast-iron diesel engine and equally-rugged transmission can be completely eliminated, it wouldn’t be impossible to install 500kWh or more of battery capacity which would give an OTR truck a range of 400 miles or more before recharge. THEN, when you consider Federal laws regarding commercial trucking, the driver needs to stop for a certain amount of rest period anyway after eight hours of driving. Said laws also require the driver to spend no more than 16 hours behind the wheel during any 24-hour period, so a charge equivalent of 90-100 gallons of diesel would help enforce those rules and make the roads safer for all.

      • 0 avatar
        Salzigtal

        Port of LA isn’t there yet. They did however move some trucks 20 miles from the docks to the end of the non-electrified https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alameda_Corridor There’s talk of moving the hand-off even further from the coast. The number of trucks that parallel the train tracks from Port of Oakland to Reno has led to proposals for moving that hand-off inland.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I can see battery powered commercial trucks for short distance urban delivery but there obviously isn’t going to be any viable range without a huge loss of payload.

      Companies already make commercial tractor units that run on natural gas and there are diesel units that will run dual fuel.

      The only way I can see this work is a diesel/electric system like locomotives.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “Obviously, it’s a complete no-go for the over-the-road market. (The batteries would have to be staggeringly huge and heavy.)”
      — Why? Four or five Model S packs would probably fit very well under the hood of a conventional OTR truck today. Probably wouldn’t even be that much heavier than the engine/transmission they’d be replacing.

      “If you can’t make it any bigger than existing models, where are the batteries going to go? Strap them to the underside of the trailer?”
      — Why not? Increase the range and if you add motors to the axles you could realize even better OTR performance and even longer range. And again with regenerative braking, the risk of runaway rigs on long downhill slopes would be almost completely eliminated.

      “If you can’t make it any bigger than existing models, where are the batteries going to go? Strap them to the underside of the trailer?”
      — Significant? Why? Just how heavy do you think those battery packs are going to be?

  • avatar
    JMII

    Most people I know purchased a truck to tow or haul something. And its engine size and output is pretty much the truck’s calling card. So a truck powered by a battery doesn’t seem like it would go over very well with such people. However maybe all that instant electric torque could win them over? I just see towing a massive range drain on a battery powered vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @JMII – my issue is range. Even if I’m sucking back fuel under heavy load or poor road conditions, I’m still good for over 300 miles.

      This is where one can make a business case for small diesels. You have improved range with decent load capacity and the improved mpg will offset purchase costs.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “This is where one can make a business case for small diesels. You have improved range with decent load capacity and the improved mpg will offset purchase costs.”

        Not even a diesel can give you 80mpg or equivalent. Add to this the fact that diesel engine repairs are more expensive than gas engine repair while an electric motor almost never needs repair (hundreds of thousands of hours mean-time-between-repair) and the electric has almost every advantage over fossil fuel EXCEPT range, and even that difference is becoming marginalized.

        Most people’s biggest complaints about EVs will never affect them if they only bother to think before spouting off. So what if they take longer to charge–you don’t have to stand beside them while they’re charging. You can go inside your house and sleep all night, secure in the knowlege that you’ll have a full ‘tank’ in the morning. You can go inside the convenience store and grab a snack or go inside the truck stop and sit down to a comfortable meal instead of rushing into a fast-food drive through and spilling your drink on those nice, new seats.

        When taken realistically, there simply is NO disadvantage to a BEV car or truck. They may operate a little differently but their advantages, in the long run, outweigh their disadvantages.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Did you know a Tesla Model X can tow a 5,000# trailer? Yes, there is some range loss; just as there is with an ICE. The difference between the two prime movers is insignificant when it comes down to just how much range is lost per recharge/refuel.

  • avatar
    7402

    The big market for an electric truck (not the semi) is something like the
    Ford Transit Connect. They are designed for moving small amounts of stuff small distances within a pretty small radius of a shop.

    I’ve long wondered why Toyota hasn’t done something similar on the Prius platform.

  • avatar
    SnarkyRichard

    If Tesla CEO Elon Musk knows what’s good for him he’ll run like the wind from gold digging Johnny Depp’s ditzy ex Amber Heard who is planning on making him the father of her children . Better yet strap yourself into a SpaceX rocket and leave that sh*t show in the dust !

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    I can’t seriously see Tesla competing with Kenworth and the like. Those guys are all about reliability, low cost per mile and long distances between refueling. Time spent swapping batteries or recharging is time counting against their hours of service and is non productive.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “You Like Trucks? We’ve Got Two Trucks Coming, Says Tesla”

    Cheques in the mail

    I’ll still respect you in the morning (because I sleep past noon)

    I’d add more but why make this political ;)

  • avatar
    mcs

    It might look something like this:

    https://www.daimler.com/products/trucks/mercedes-benz/urban-etruck.html

    http://media.daimler.com/marsMediaSite/en/instance/ko/Customer-trial-for-heavy-duty-electric-truck-in-short-radius.xhtml?oid=15602408

    In other news, Boeing and JetBlue are investing in electric planes:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-05/boeing-teams-with-jetblue-to-fund-startup-s-electric-airplane

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Could work for the city based delivery vehicle market. Though such customers are more pragmatic than the average Tesla customer and would be concerned about a good value proposition. This will be difficult for Tesla to offer.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Mercedes says they are talking to 20 companies that are potential customers for a trial in Europe. I’ve already seen a couple of electric delivery trucks around.

      http://about.van.fedex.com/newsroom/global-english/fedex-introduces-first-all-electric-trucks-to-be-used-in-the-u-s-parcel-delivery-business/

      https://pressroom.ups.com/pressroom/ContentDetailsViewer.page?ConceptType=PressReleases&id=1446039616630-395

      http://www.autoblog.com/2013/02/08/ups-puts-100-electric-trucks-into-service-in-central-california/

      http://www.pepsico.com/live/story/frito-lay-expands-electric-truck-fleet092420131157

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “Could work for the city based delivery vehicle market. Though such customers are more pragmatic than the average Tesla customer and would be concerned about a good value proposition. This will be difficult for Tesla to offer.”

      There’s already a Tesla Model S doing delivery work in a major city, though I don’t remember which city. It has over 200K miles on it and the owner crows about how much money he’s saved on fuel and repairs because it simply doesn’t break down the way all his previous ICE models did.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I guess if the customer’s only metric of concern is saving on fuel costs, then it’s a home run. He’s still likely $50K upside down in total cost as compared to a more conventional alternative. Most fleet/business customers care about that.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Unless battery storage technology and recharging speeds can each improve by a factor of TEN (10), pure EV’s will never be a universal replacement for ICE’s, for general purpose long-distance vehicles,— and certainly not for the most popular ones: pickup trucks and SUV’s. HOWEVER, if batteries can serve as an intermediary for advanced H2-fuel cells, or CNG-powered ICE’s, then the best both worlds may be possible — 50 years from now. (We must remember that a combustion engine will always have a huge advantage: the oxidizer is free via O2 from the atmosphere, and you don’t have to carry both oxidizer and reducer along with you. And don’t forget lighter weight.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    What? Nobody mentioned a certain Road Whale™-hating fox or the fact that there is a strong chance of another gas price spike starting this year? If Tesla succeeds in building these before anyone else, they may again move a market that simply doesn’t want to move.

  • avatar
    addm

    There are lot of expert here ready to conclude this is not possible. But I doubt any of these experts have done any basic physics to come to their conclusion. I dont think their judgement would have any different if it was introduction of Model S

  • avatar
    packardhell1

    I’m not sure how the logistics would work out, but range seems to be a concern in this discussion. Semi + trailer = a lot of flat surfaces. Would it be plausible to cover some of that with solar panels and possibly batteries underneath? For example, have the top of the trailer be a giant solar panel and the space under the trailer (where there is a lot of empty space) be batteries. I get there are safety hazards that would have to be addressed, but that may also lower the trailer’s center of gravity.

    It may also allow an electric motor for the trailer’s tires as well. Living in Illinois, I’m picturing snowy and icy conditions where interstates slow down and some trucks have trouble making it up some hills. Added traction would be nice on the interstate or in town.

    I’m not sure how much that would cost to add to trailers, but the batteries could be plugged into the tractor’s feed as well for its engine to use. That may not solve the range issue, but it may extend it a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Very forward thinking, packard. Everything you mention could significantly improve the truck’s overall performance over time. Doubt we’d see it right away but don’t doubt we would see it.


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