Is Tesla About To Lead The Charge In A New Micro-Industry?

Tesla, the American company leading the charge (forgive the pun) in automobile and electrical innovation, announced a new line of semi trucks at a launch event on November 16 in Hawthorne California. The launch wasn’t just one of CEO Elon Musk’s highly orchestrated events (though it was, as always, that too). Rather, Musk used the event to present a product that could revolutionize technology and human safety simultaneously.

Breaker breaker one nine

Unlike other trucks, the Tesla Semi can accelerate from zero to sixty in a mere five seconds, and has the ability to haul nearly 80,000 pounds, making it one of the most spatially efficient semi trucks on the market. With a higher haul potential, Tesla is aiming for more efficient deliveries, and attempting to eliminate the carbon footprint of the delivery industry not just by weening companies off of fuel-dependent trucks, but by increasing the amount that the can take to and fro in a single trip. The Tesla Semi has also been designed to be semi-autonomous, capable of staying in the same lane and keeping throttling speeds down on its own.
Additionally, the Tesla Semi allows drivers to man the truck in the center of the front wheel instead of to the left, giving them more control over the car by operating with a panoramic view of the road ahead of them. Replacing the traditional levers and gears are two touchscreens placed on either side of the steering wheel, giving more detailed information about the truck’s diagnostics.

Wall to wall and ten feet tall

The Semi is Tesla’s first bid for presence in commercial automobiles, pivoting from focusing on customers to targeting companies. Drivers are traditionally limited to 3,000 miles driven total per-week. The truck is said to have a range of 500 miles when fully charged; 30 minutes of charging will usually return the Tesla Semi to a 400-mile range drive. And, even with the leap forward, the Semi will still be outfitted with the same parts that make it part of the Tesla family, by housing components from the Tesla Model 3 line.
This pivot marks an important moment for a company like Tesla, which has thrived in a tech economy that celebrates innovation, while often also rewarding speculation. The company is reporting its largest quarterly loss yet, down $619 million on a $2.98 billion revenue. The company has dipped its attention into a wide range of arenas, most notable space travel, but fear that the company might fall below its operating cash target of $1 billion still lingers, with some analysts claiming that number could be hit in two quarters.
However, the mere existence of the new Semi proves that electric cars have entertained the mainstream vehicle market with biting ease. Tesla’s brand popularity has pushed car makers like GM and Volvo to promise all-electric lineups in the coming years. And while less than .5% of global car sales are currently electric, it doesn’t change the fact that more and more companies are embracing electric models at faster speeds. Commercial trucking has been a slower process, largely because the owners of trucking fleets are notoriously price-averse. Yet even with higher upfront pricing, electric semi trucks have the potential to save owners money in as little as two years, with fuel use and maintenance low, and battery prices decrease in price.

Over and out

The Tesla Semi offers a fascinating insight into the future, placing electric cars into the conversation in a myriad of new ways, most notable in the application of short-range trucking. Trips of 100 to 200 miles represent nearly 30% of all trucking trips in the United States, meaning that its steep price tag is justified when considering that the trucks could make two and a half trips off a single charge. It’s hard to say what the next step will be, and whether Tesla’s gambit will shake up the trucking industry in the same way that it has mainstream car manufacturing, but if there is anything this era of disruptive industries has proven, it’s that no idea is too crazy to work. And judging from the early word—Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue, has placed an order for 15 semis—is already making electric seem like a bright idea.