Tesla Moves Bigger & Back To Its Roots
Tesla has never been accused of underplaying its cards (or cars). Tonight (Nov. 16) it showed its all-electric heavy-duty truck, destined for production in late 2019. The”Semis” (there were two) have been previewed for months, but the presentation lived up to most of the hype. The truck promises to be the same kind of distrupter than Tesla cars have been in the light-duty market.
That wasn’t all, though, as Elon Musk also revealed its next-generation “roadster.” The four-passenger performance T-top coupe was a surprise, but will be available in 2020.
The Big Truck
Tesla’s ambition to show that its electric propulsion technology has applications beyond expensive luxury sedans and SUVs came to fruition when two trucks rolled off the streets of Torrance into the Space X facility. The trucks were sleek, sporting a .36 Cd and enough batteries to claim a 500-mile range.
The promises about the trucks were vintage Musk:
- “designed like a bullet” with super-aero looks
- 1 million mile “no break-down guarantee”
- sporty performance (0-60 in five seconds with the cab, 20 seconds with an 80,000-pound load
- an enhanced AutoPilot system (like the system featured in Tesla cars)
- “lowest cost of ownership” compared to current diesel trucks
- order one now for delivery in three years
Actual technical details were sparse, but what could be divined from Musk’s 20-minute introduction was that it was designed to run as an 80,000-pound rig (the maximum payload allowed on U.S. roads). What was not divulged was how much weight the huge battery packs would take away from the load capacity.
The power, coming from four Tesla Model 3 motors, was impressive, with the ability to accelerate a fully loaded trailer to freeway speeds in 20 seconds. Safety features–including automatic emergency braking, lane keeping and forward collision warning, are welcome additions. As are Tesla mobile apps like remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance notices.
The cab is configured as a single-seat daycab setup with the driver positioned at the center of the cab, flanked by two large Model S-like screens. It has the height to accommodate a six-footer and plenty of storage space.
Musk said the truck would “win on economics,” but until it’s really on the market, it will be hard to fully evaluate how those numbers work out in the real world.
The Surprise Roadster
I know model descriptions are in flux, but when the Tesla Roadster 2.0 rolled off the back of one of the Semis, I did a double-take. At first glance, it appeared to be a T-top (hello, bandit) Model 3 coupe. And that may be what it is, but Musk introduced it as taking the roadster Tesla started with and “making it new.” Whatever the chassis, about which little was said, the selling point of this car will be performance.
That’s something with which Tesla already has a track record. The new three-motor roadster (one for the front wheels, two for the rear) will be beyond “ludicrous,” as Musk put it. It aims to be the first production car to deliver 0-60 times under two seconds, 0-100 in 4.2 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 8.9 seconds. The top speed wasn’t disclosed, but was hinted to be north of 250 mph. In addition, it will have a 620-mile range from its 200 kWh battery pack. Musk’s summation was that it was the “hard-core smack-down to gasoline cars.”
Unlike some exotic supercars, Musk said this model could accommodate two small persons in its rear seat and had “real car” storage. It is promised to be on the market by 2020.
A Tesla reveal is never a straightforward event. As was predicted by some skeptics, it started on “Musk Standard Time,” i.e., a half-hour late, but wasted no time in getting the trucks on screen and then on stage. Musk breezed through his portion of the program in about 20 minutes and the Roadster took less than 10 minutes to present. It was compact, but packed with quite a bit of real information and marketing conjecture.
As with all Tesla products, the story will be complete when they are in production and on the market, but the mere presence of two running heavy-duty truck prototypes should be enough to accelerate the development of competitive trucks around the world. Some have already started, like Daimler, Cummins and Chanje, but I’d expect more during the next few years. Given what happened in the electric car market, where the major car companies seemed to have underestimated Tesla and been caught off-guard by its success (albeit not financial, yet, except in the stock market), I’d predict that the truck OEMs will accelerate their competitive products. It should make for an interesting truck market during the coming decade.
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