When Elon Musk announced the new Tesla electric semi-truck, it had the potential to be a move that transformed the trucking industry, but that can only happen if major transporters embrace the new technology. Looking at what the truck can offer, with a 500-mile range, electronic connection directly to fleet management systems and significant power advantages, along with a projected 25 cent reduction in the cost per mile, it is clear that this new vehicle makes for an attractive proposition, for both drivers and owners.
It is perhaps then, unsurprising that Walmart have announced a plan to test out the new truck when it reaches production in 2019, with an initial purchase of 15 of the electric trucks that will be used right across The U.S. and Canada to assess performance, suitability and how an electric vehicle fits into the day-t0-day transport needs of a major retailer. While a small number now, Walmart runs a fleet of over 6,000 vehicles to transport its stock from distribution centers to retail stores, it remains a significant investment that could indicate a real change in the trucking industry is coming, and coming soon.
In their announcement, Walmart said ““We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions,” and this is a good indicator as to the future of trucking. Until now, gas powered trucks have been the only practical solution for long distance transport of heavy goods by road. Quick refueling and plenty of power to carry the large loads are at the core of this. By contrast electric vehicles have had a relatively short range, and take a long time to charge, often lacking the kind of power needed to pull large loads effectively as well, or having the power compromise range so much the vehicle was simply unsuitable for many applications.
Tesla’s new electric truck changes this though, with a 500-mile range when pulling a full load at 60 mph, it is essentially equipped for a full day of driving, and can then be charged, adding 400 miles of range in just 30 minutes. In short, the truck can keep going much longer than a driver, and with the ability to maintain 65 mph up a 5% grade with an 80,000lb load, close to twice the speed of a regular truck, the potential here is amazing.
Time will tell if the truck lives up to its hype, and this is where the Walmart announcement becomes significant. Seeing how the truck responds in the real world, how the suggested performance translates, how the range and charging fit into a daily work schedule and how reliable they prove, that is what really matters to truck drivers and fleet managers. Tesla have created an amazing machine that could make a real difference for drivers, but that is on paper, we wait until 2019 to see what really happens.