Dec. 1 is a date that lives in infamy in electric trucking. It’s the date the Nikola One was unveiled back in 2016 and now, six years later on the very same day, PepsiCo receives their first release of the 100-unit Tesla Semi order placed back in 2017.
I, myself, like many of the trucking community, popped the popcorn and waited for the countdown clock to hit zero. And it did, and we waited. After about 20 minutes, the unthinkable happened.
Elon drove the truck onto the stage himself, no lie…
Points for Mr. Elon Musk for getting behind the wheel of his own product and driving it into the Tesla Semi facility. After making the classic greenhorn move of stabbing the brakes too hard, Musk and Dan Priestley, Tesla’s senior manager for truck engineering, climbed down out of the truck.
The stage was a flatbed trailer connected to a Pep+ branded Semi. Pep+ is PepsiCo’s environmental sustainability project.
“This thing has crazy power relative to a diesel truck. It’s fast to accelerate, it’s fast to brake, it’s really a step change improvement in what it’s currently like to drive a semi truck. It’s got three times the power of any diesel truck on the road right now.”Elon Musk
Ok, Mr. Elon, let’s put that to the test. In the video package, Musk shows the Semi with a flatbed loaded with concrete barrier blocks. It is easily passing other trucks on what is to be an uphill section of interstate highway. So that’s a win in what was promised, a beast of a truck that would make drivers excited.
Reverse-hung doors on a road tractor??? Are we trusting the cameras to give a perfect view while backing?
The doors are another issue. Can we call them driver’s side doors if they are not beside the driver’s seat? Also, can the driver let down the side window to talk to a guard or shipping personnel? Can the driver hand paperwork down to someone from that central seating position?
Turn radius is another thing I’m worried about. The cab is very close to the trailer once hooked up. While great for aerodynamics and fuel economy, it’s terrible for tight backing situations.
Drivers need to be able to go past a 90° angle when backing in tight docks that were designed before the 70-foot tractor-trailer. While it looks great for large modern distribution centers where you have room for big maneuvers, taking a Tesla Semi into an older facility could be troublesome.
Finally, for a truck that large to not have driver accommodations, like a sleeping bunk, really is a let down. A fold-down bed would fit in the cab, in my opinion. I hope they did not have to cut weight in driver comfort amenities to make room for the battery system.
All in all, I think the Tesla Semi does what it is designed to do and that is warehouse-to-warehouse freight moves. I do not see this truck in its current iteration being viable for inner city freight or production material deliveries.
Maybe in the next Tesla Semi generation, we might get some changes from the real world use feedback from the PepsiCo drivers. And hopefully a Falcon rocket powered ejection seat…