Tesla's latest competition in making efficient truck to crisscross country: Big Oil

Tesla CEO Elon Musk shows off the Tesla Semi as he unveils the company's new electric semi truck during a presentation in Hawthorne, California, U.S., November 16, 2017.

Alexandria Sage | Reuters

Tesla CEO Elon Musk shows off the Tesla Semi as he unveils the company’s new electric semi truck during a presentation in Hawthorne, California, U.S., November 16, 2017.

Tesla introduced its electric truck model in 2017. Although Tesla’s trucks aren’t scheduled to start production until 2019 (and the company currently has its hands full with ramping production of its Model 3), companies can preorder them now. UPS and Walmart have preordered the trucks, which can go up to 500 miles without recharging.

The trucks can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph while carrying 80,000 pounds of cargo in 20 seconds, according to Tesla. They feature four independent motors, enhanced autopilot and armored glass. The driver sits in the center of the cab to improve visibility. Automatic emergency breaking and forward collision warning also improve safety.

Dr. Chris Caplice, the executive director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, believes electric trucks are coming, but it might take decades. “My guess is 20-plus years,” he said. “It’s going to be in pieces.”

Cost remains a concern with more sustainable transport, but advocates say the vehicles save money over time. Tesla claims its electric trucks will save at least $200,000 in fuel savings compared to a diesel truck, and the payback period — how long it will take to make back the premium cost paid over a traditional diesel truck purchase — is estimated at two years (though payback periods can vary based on fluctuations in the commodities pricing market).

The focus now is on making trucks more aerodynamic, like the AirFlow Starship. Autonomous trucking will also improve energy efficiency, as these trucks will be able to drive nonstop, which means they can go slower and burn less fuel.

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