Well, here we go again. Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has once again updated the delivery date for his battery-electric vehicle (BEV) commercial truck, the Tesla Semi. In a recent tweet, Musk claims delivery will begin on December 1, 2022. Where have we heard that before?
I’ll believe it when I see it…
Ok, let’s get to the facts, Elon has been promising this next generation BEV Semi since November 2017. Production was supposed to begin in late 2019, with over 100,000 being stamped by the Giga-presses per year beginning in 2022. Yet here we stand with nothing but glorified yard trucks doing PR drives around the factories.
Tesla is now, once again, promising Pepsi will get their long-awaited deliveries on December 1. Let’s go down the list of the biggest preorders:
- Pride Group Enterprises – 150 units as of 11/04/20
- Walmart Canada – 130 units as of 09/29/20
- United Parcel Service (UPS) – 125 units as of 12/19/17
- PepsiCo – 100 units as of 12/12/2017
One of the issues that has plagued the Semi is the lack of battery cells. The Semi will be using the 4680 tabless battery cell.
Mass production of these cells has been the latest sticking point due to the shortage of raw materials, particularly lithium. Getting the lithium supply chain robust enough to deliver the amount of cells needed for both the automotive and Semi programs has been a challenge.
How much damage did Tesla suffer from the Ford Lightning blunder
The big issue with BEVs is “range under load,” or what I have dubbed “The Golden RUL!” Translated, that means an empty truck gets great mileage (and a full truck gets less…).
The 2019 Cascadia I was leasing got over 24 mpg bobtailing and about 17 mpg with an empty trailer. But that doesn’t matter because you don’t make money until you back up and offload the goods from a loaded trailer.
So let’s go back to the Hoovies Garage YouTube video now known the world over. They tested a short-range version of the Ford Lightning Lariat pulling a 1930 Ford Model A weighing 2,265 pounds and it shocked everyone.
It was a disaster, with the truck quickly gobbling up the electrons from the battery at a breathtaking pace. The actual driveable range was decreased by two-thirds, with the low range warning activating before the test run was completed.
Hoovies Garage has since released another video, although it reeks of the cheap cologne of corporate lawyers.
“My expectations” for the Tesla Semi
Let’s get this out of the way. My thoughts and opinions are not shaped in any way whatsoever by my employers. I did write an article bashing the dark side of Earth Day, you know.
I have a bad feeling the Tesla Semi is going to be shipped with issues. Here are my biggest worries.
- The Golden RUL: I don’t think the Semi will live up to the hype. I have a feeling the weight-to-range calculations we can now do thanks to the testing of the Lightning as a baseline will be worse for Tesla.
- Battery fires: The thermal energy released when those cells have to pull a loaded trailer uphill has to be pretty harsh. I know there’s coolant running some way through those cells to keep them cool but they will be roasting under the strain.
- Sensor failures from real road conditions: Back The Truck Up’s Justin Martin put it best in a tweet; “Has this thing ever felt a pothole impact?” We all know something is going to move in an impact, especially a high center of gravity object like a truck. How capable is the Tesla Semi in a rough environment – such as a common city street with not enough funding to properly repair the potholes and/or remove debris?
I said it once and I’ll end this article with this: I want to see it in real-world applications with honest, independent drivers behind the wheel, yoke, or whatever controls the direction of this contraption.
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