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Is the Tesla Semi Electric Truck the Truck of the Future?

Declaring that it was “designed like a bullet”, Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Semi truck November 16, 2017, at a launch event. The heavy-duty electric freight vehicle has a 500 mile range, can haul 80,000 pounds, and has semi-autonomous capabilities.

The minimalist-designed vehicle looks very futuristic and sleek. It is a fully electric Class 8 commercial truck. Class 8 trucks are a category of freight vehicles that weigh more than 33,000 pounds.

While early specifications of the Tesla Semi indicated the vehicle would have a range of 300 miles, the recently revealed truck has a range of 500 miles at maximum weight driving highway speeds. The vehicle is highly aerodynamic with a coefficient of drag of only 0.36 (less than the Bugatti Chiron, a $2.7 million supercar with a drag coefficient of 0.38.)

Musk claims that the Tesla Semi is the most comfortable commercial truck ever. It has a centered wheel position which makes it feel very different than driving a conventional rig. On the right side of the wheel, drivers will have the speedometer, mileage gauge, battery status, maps, climate control, etc.) On the left of the wheel, drivers will have access to truck-specific info. The enhanced autopilot is standard, meaning that braking and staying in the lane are automatic. The autopilot system enables several Tesla Semi trucks to travel in a convoy on freeways, further reducing the operating cost.

The truck includes lane tracking, automatic tracking and nuclear explosion-proof glass for the windshield. The Tesla Semi can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds when empty and 0 to 60 in 20 seconds when filled to capacity (80,000 pounds).

It is able to accelerate and gain 400 miles of range within 30 minutes; its operating cost-per-mile is 20 percent lower than traditional diesel semi trucks. It includes cutting-edge technology such as:

  • Jackknifing prevention
  • Sensors for blind-spot detection
  • Electronic data logging for fleet management.


Electric semi trucks will have a significant impact on reducing pollution caused by commercial vehicle emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), freight vehicles account for 23 percent of vehicle emissions in the U.S.

Musk claims that the cost of the Tesla Semi will be recouped in fuel expense savings in two years. The base retail price for the vehicle is expected to be $150,000 for a 300-mile range model and $180,000 for a 500-mile range vehicle. Production on the semi will begin in 2019.

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Kyle Mitchell
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