Tesla has unveiled its first electric articulated lorry, designed to challenge diesel trucks as king of the road.
The long-anticipated Tesla Semi has a range of 500 miles on a single charge. Tesla says the vehicle – known in the US as a semi-trailer truck – will go into production in 2019.
The Tesla Semi will achieve 0-60mph in 20 seconds when pulling 36,287kgs (80,000lbs), the maximum allowed on US roads.
Speaking on stage at Tesla’s facility in Los Angeles, chief executive Elon Musk said: “It’s not like any truck that you’ve ever driven.”
With Tesla Semi, Mr Musk enters a competitive, demanding market. There are an estimated 3.5 million truck drivers in the US, the vast majority of whom drive diesel-powered engines. Tesla will not be able to compete on diesel’s range, and battery specialists doubt Tesla can produce a powerful enough battery at a reasonable price.
A Carnegie Mellon study concluded that a 300-mile-capable battery pack costs about $200,000,which is much higher than a diesel-powered semi-truck, which costs about $120,000, on average, for the entire vehicle.
As well as coming up against diesel incumbents, Tesla also faces other electric rivals. Concept electric big rigs have been unveiled by Daimler, Volkswagen and Cummins – though all fall short on range, and none are currently on the roads.
Where Tesla believes it can bring an added advantage is with on-board safety and comfort. A statement from Tesla boasted that jackknifing is prevented due to the Semi’s onboard sensors that detect instability and react with positive or negative torque to each wheel while independently actuating all brakes.