Tesla unveils semi-truck, surprises fans with new Roadster

17 Nov 2017

The Tesla Semi. Image: Tesla

Elon Musk is challenging diesel vehicles with the new Tesla semi-truck.

Yesterday (16 November), Tesla finally unveiled its first ever articulated lorry, known as the Tesla Semi.

According to Ars Technica, the truck will have an impressive 500-mile (805km) range and a maximum load of roughly 35 tonnes, and will go into production in 2019.

Speaking yesterday at the launch of the semi-truck, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said: “It’s not like any truck you’ve ever driven.”

Each of the Tesla Semi’s wheels is powered by a Model 3 engine, and the cab of the truck itself boasts two touchscreens also found in the Model 3.

Tesla said the semi-truck would work out cheaper per kilometre than an equivalent diesel vehicle, but neglected to share details of just how much an individual truck would set you back.

Impressive safety specs

Safety is paramount in the design of the Tesla Semi, with a statement from the company claiming 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”.

It added: “The surround cameras aid object detection and minimise blind spots, automatically alerting the driver to safety hazards and obstacles.

“With Enhanced Autopilot, the Tesla Semi features automatic emergency braking, automatic lane keeping and lane departure warning.”

Musk also said Tesla would build a network of megachargers that would charge the trucks’ batteries to a 400-mile (644km) range in just 30 minutes, but there has been scepticism that the battery cost of the truck could be prohibitive.

A surprise Roadster

As well as the unveiling of the long-awaited articulated lorry project, Tesla also had a surprise in its back pocket: a new version of its Roadster sports car.

Musk claimed that the top speed is 250mph (402kmh), and it can go from 0 to 60mph in just 1.9 seconds, and 0 to 100mph in a mere 4.2 seconds.

According to TechCrunch, it’s a 2×2 four-seater and will be available in 2020 starting at $200,000, with 1,000 Founder’s Series models being sold, retailing at $250,000 each.

Tesla was offering test drives to individuals at yesterday’s event who put down a $50,000 deposit on the Roadster without knowing the full price.

Challenging times for Tesla

Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told CNBC: “The biggest challenge Tesla faces with its Semi is customers. These are business people, not fans, and they will need [to be] convinced that this truck is better for their balance sheet than existing technology.

“It probably is, based on the specs provided, but this isn’t necessarily a slam dunk.”

Also, the excitement of yesterday’s product launches is not going to make people forget about the ongoing delays in the production of the Model 3 car due to “production hell”, as Musk put it earlier this year.

There’s also fierce competition in the electric truck market, with Volkswagen, Daimler and Cummins all either debuting their own versions or working hard on their development.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects