"It’s economic suicide for rail. This beats rail.”
The future of rail freight could be in serious jeopardy if Elon Musk gets his way, with the Tesla CEO unveiling an electric truck that he claims is more reliable and efficient than any train currently in operation.
Never afraid of a bold statement, Musk said that a convoy of Tesla Semi trucks would spell “economic suicide” for the rail industry, owing to the truck’s improved performance that enables a range of 500 miles on just one charge. Production is planned to begin in 2019.
Based on calculations made by the electric and autonomous vehicle producer, the running costs of a fleet of Tesla Semi trucks would be half that of rail freight – a differential that Musk believes could usurp rail as the vehicle of choice for long-distance deliveries.
“It’s economic suicide for rail. This beats rail,” announced Musk to thousands of attendees at the truck’s launch, before revealing the approximate running costs of $1.51 per mile for rail, versus $0.85 for a fleet of Tesla Semis.
Among the Tesla Semi’s key attributes, and one which makes it particularly well-suited to long-haulage, is a promise from its makers of unparalleled reliability. “We guarantee this truck won’t break down for one million miles,” revealed Musk. By way of comparison, one million miles equates to nearly 200 trips up and down the Trans-Canada Highway – one of the longest routes of its type in the world.
Musk went some way to allay the concerns of potential Tesla truck customers regarding how they’ll charge the vehicles by announcing that it was installing its Power Chargers, which enable the vehicles to be charged while also being unloaded, all over the world. Though not revealing the total charge time, Musk made a pledge of the electricity powering the truck wouldn't be subject to the same wild fluctuations of fossil fuels, thanks to the energy being harvested using solar panels. “Your truck is running on sunlight,” he beamed.
Revealing the Tesla’s impressive running performance, Musk said that the truck’s regenerative braking, “which goes straight back in to the battery”, generated enough power to help the truck reach 60mph in five seconds, comparable to the most powerful Ford Mustang currently on the market.
In his 20 minute speech, Musk also prophesised a potentially grim future for the trucking industry. “If you look at the economics of a truck convoy it gets way better; now a diesel truck is twice as expensive as a Tesla semi,” he said. “Taking into account lease cost, maintenance cost and all other factors, a diesel truck will be 20% more expensive than a Tesla Semi per mile.”
All of Tesla’s trucks will be fitted with a safety system, as standard, making it one of the safest vehicles on the road. The auto pilot automatically reacts if the driver becomes unresponsive –stays in its lane, brakes, and calls the emergency services.
What do you think about Tesla's truck and its vision for freight? We'd really like to hear from you.
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