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Tesla breaks heavy-duty truck mould with Semi

Keep on truckin’: With a proposed range of up to 805km on a single charge, Tesla’s Semi could cover the distance between Melbourne and Adelaide before needing to be plugged in.

All-electric Tesla Semi promises to improve truck safety, performance, cost equation

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Tesla logo20 Nov 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN

TESLA has ripped the covers off its Semi all-electric truck, promising to reinvent the cargo-hauling class with hot hatch-like performance, quick-charging capabilities, improved safety and reduced maintenance costs.

Underpinned by four electric motors – two for each of the rear axles – the Semi can accelerate from zero to 60mph (97km/h) in five seconds without a trailer, or 20.0s with an 80,000 pound (36,287kg) payload attached.

In comparison, Tesla says a traditional diesel-powered truck will hit the landmark 60mph from a standstill in 15.0s unburdened and about 60.0s with a full load.

Tesla’s Semi is also able to power up a five per cent inclined road at a steady 65mph (105km/h), versus an internal combustion-powered truck’s ability to chug up the same hill at only 45mph (72km/h).

Although the size and specification of the battery system was not revealed at the Semi’s unveiling event last week, the all-electric truck can cover a distance ranging from 483 to 805km on a single charge.

The Semi also sports a low drag coefficient of just 0.36, making it more slippery than the Bugatti Chiron (0.38) and diesel trucks which usual range from 0.65 to 0.70.

When it does need a top up though, the Semi can take advantage of a new Megacharger high-speed DC standard that can add around 644km of driving range after 30 minutes of plug-in time.

Under a full load, according to Tesla, the Semi consumes less than two kilowatt-hours of energy per mile.

With a centrally positioned driving seat, the Semi’s cabin is easier to enter and exit thanks to unobstructed stairs, as well as a cabin tall enough to accommodate a standing adult.

Drivers are also flanked by two large touchscreen displays that can output information including navigation, blind spot monitoring, vehicle information and data logging.

The in-built connectivity suite also allows the Semi to interface directly with fleet management systems and remote monitoring, a feature which, according to Tesla, currently requires third-party add-ons.

Safety has also been a key area Tesla has addressed with the construction of its Semi, with various features including a reinforced battery, impact resistant glass and surround-view cameras installed as standard.

To prevent jack-knifing, the Semi is also equipped with sensors that constantly monitor stability and can distribute torque to an individual wheel to prevent the trailer and truck folding unintentionally.

In addition, Tesla’s suite of semi-autonomous Enhanced Autopilot software is included that features autonomous emergency braking, automatic lane keeping and departure warning, and camera recording capabilities.

The software will also allow for limited self-driving functionality under certain conditions in freeway settings.

Tesla says the “Semi’s all-electric architecture is designed to have a higher safety standard than any other heavy-duty truck on the market”.

Tesla’s all-electric powertrain does away with the need for a gearbox and clutch, while “its regenerative braking recovers 98 per cent of kinetic energy to the battery, giving it basically infinite brake life,” according to the tech brand.

Tesla is touting the lack of gearbox, clutch and other consumables associated with an internal combustion engine as a cost-cutting advantage, with the Semi’s motors – which are derived from the Model 3 – expected to last more than a million miles.

Over a two-year period, Tesla is predicting the Semi will reap over $US200,000 ($AU264,585) in fuel savings alone based on the current $US0.12/kWh average.

While pricing for the Semi is yet to be revealed, Tesla’s first emissions-free truck will go into production in 2019 with reservations able to be made with a $US5000 ($6615) deposit.

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