Can Tesla transform retail supply chains?

Mike Troy
Editorial Director
Mike Troy
Tesla Founder Elon Musk at the big reveal of the company's first ever Tesla Semi at an event in Hawthorne, Calif.

Zero to 60 in 20 seconds may not sound fast, but Tesla’s new electric truck does that while pulling an 80,000 pound load and then traveling 500 miles, leaving supply chain professionals eager to test the vehicle.

At a much anticipated unveiling on Nov. 16, Tesla founder Elon Musk wheeled his new big rig into a large building near Los Angeles to the applause of a large crowd and flashing lights. He hopped out of the cab and proceeded to tout the performance advantages of the vehicle, such as the 0-20 MPH speed, uphill towing capabilities and 500 mile range at highway speeds. All to make the point that the Tesla Semi offer superior performance, greater safety and at a lower cost than diesel engine alternatives.

Musk didn’t disclose the vehicle’s sticker price during the presentation, and it won’t begin production until 2019, but he did say the Tesla Semi operates at a fully loaded cost per mile of $1.26 compared to a conventional diesel truck at $1.51 a mile assuming a fuel cost of $2.50 a gallon. And when operated in a convoy across large stretches of highway he said the cost per mile can be superior to rail.

As for charging, because the truck has a range of 500 miles at maximum weight at highway speed charging isn’t an issue because of typical routes.

“The vast majority of routes are under 250 miles so the truck can go to its destination and back without recharging,” Musk said.

The vehicle’s safety characteristics are also improved, according to Musk.

“(The truck) will have enhanced autopilot as standard and will automatically brake and automatically lane keep as well. This is a massive increase in safety,” Musk said.

He also noted that jackknifing the truck is impossible because there are four independent motors on each wheel that dynamically adjust the torque.

“You worst nightmare is gone with this truck,” Musk said, to which a an audience member can be heard to shout, “Elon for president,” to laughter and applause from the audience.

When the vehicle does become available in 2019, Musk said Tesla is guaranteeing that it won’t break down for one million miles.

“The reason we are guaranteeing it won’t break down is because of the four independent motors,” Musk said. “You can lose two of the four motors and it will still keep going. Even if you only have two of the four motors active it will still beat a diesel truck.”

Check out the unveiling of the vehicle by click here.

Walmart introduced a futuristic vehicle of its own in 2014 that looks quite similar inside and out to Tesla's version. Interesting to note the difference in presentation styles. To see what Walmart had to say about its advanced vehicle nearly four years ago, click here.


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