Tesla's 'Badass' Electric Semi Beats Diesel and Rail, Says Elon Musk

Tesla introduces a high-performance, totally electric, semi-autonomous truck that that can haul 80,000 of freight for 500 miles without recharging.

2 minute read

November 20, 2017, 8:00 AM PST

By Katharine Jose


Goods Movement

Miune / Shutterstock

In April 2016, Planetizen's Casey Brazeal commented on the unexpected success of Tesla’s electric cars and wrote, "[n]ow it's time for someone to follow Tesla's lead and bring electrification to the trucking industry.”

The time, it seems, is now, and the “someone” following Tesla’s example is Tesla.

In a presentation last Thursday, as reported by Umair Irfan:

"Emphasizing the truck’s ‘badass performance,' Tesla CEO Elon Musk pitched the new Tesla Semi as the safest, most comfortable truck ever.”

The Tesla truck is completely electric, can haul the same amount of freight as a semi running on diesel, is semi-autonomous, and for some reason has “nuclear explosion proof glass.”

Greening the trucking industry has been a theme in transportation planning for some time, but so has moving freight by rail. Because it is less expensive, less polluting, and creates fewer negative externalities to be dealt with by public money freight rail has seen a resurgence in the last decade. with a number of states investing in the industry,

But trucking is, not by accident, deeply ingrained in the American economy, and Musk believes his truck is better than both traditional trucking and rail:

“'It's not just economic suicide to use one diesel truck, it's economic suicide for rail,' Musk said. 'This beats rail.'”

The problem with Musk’s statement, some planners may want to point out, is traffic. Electric trucks may reduce pollution, but they won’t necessarily address congestion or safety concerns associated with big trucks.

Considering the massive increase in freight expected in the next 30 years, there may be room for both a rail boom and Tesla's trucks, but it’s worth noting there’s one thing Musk didn’t cover:

"Though Tesla says the payback period in averted fuel costs on the truck would be just two years, it did not reveal a retail price," writes Irfan.

Production of the electric semi begins in 2019.

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