Self-driving trucks are most definitely the future. While imperfections in design and other things seem to exist, overall it is a far more beneficial option all-around, more effective, efficient, and lucrative for trucking companies. In a previous article, we talked about and extrapolated myths about whether or not self-driving trucks will eventually put truckers out of business.
Here at Sugar Creek Transportation, we just so happened to have ordered a new Tesla Semi truck earlier in 2022. We are quite excited about its arrival and truly putting it to the test and finding out for ourselves how functional this piece of technology truly is.
The burning question remains. Will self-driving trucks eventually put truckers out of business? The short answer is no. Not in the near future anyway. We believe that even with self-driving Tesla Semis that fully autonomous trucks with zero human interference will likely not happen for quite some time.
In this article we wanted to break down further the Tesla Semi, its capabilities, and how it affects the trucking and transportation industry.
A Little Bit More About The Tesla Semi Unveiling
On Thursday, Elon Musk revealed the Tesla Semi, an all-electric Class 8 truck the company expects to disrupt the commercial transportation market. During a live event at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory, Musk, the company’s co-founder and CEO, unveiled the Semi. Musk claimed that the vehicle’s power was “insane” when compared to that of a diesel truck. To paraphrase the reviewer, “It’s fast to accelerate, it’s fast to brake, it’s truly a step change improvement over what it’s like to drive a semi-truck right now. Any other diesel truck on the road today can’t hold a candle to its power output.”
Musk claimed the Semi contributes to Tesla’s overarching ambition of lowering carbon emissions and developing renewable energy sources. In 2017, work began on the Semi truck. Although Class 8 trucks account for only 1% of vehicle production, they account for nearly 20% of vehicle emissions and 36% of vehicle particulate emissions, according to Musk. If you care about public health, this has “enormous implications”, especially in urban areas.
Musk further claimed that the Semi requires “no training” to operate and is “as easy to drive as a Model 3.”
Brief History About Tesla Semi and Development
Tesla, Inc. has developed a fully electric, battery-powered Class 8 semi-truck called the Tesla Semi. In November of 2017, two concept trucks were introduced to the public. Tesla initially expected to begin production in 2019, with annual production of as many as 100,000 trucks by 2022. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 those production plans were shattered and delayed by nearly 2 years. The first trucks were delivered to PepsiCo on December 1, 2022, after production had begun in October 2021.
An 80% charge may be achieved in 30 minutes at a solar-powered “Tesla Megacharger” charging station. The company previously claimed that the Tesla Semi truck would have a range of 500 miles (800 km) on a full charge. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has stated that the Semi would feature semi-autonomous driving capabilities on highways via Tesla Autopilot as standard feature.
Many trucking industry experts had previously doubted Tesla’s ability to develop such a long-range electric Class 8 heavy-duty truck. Despite doubt and COVID-19 delays, the first production trucks boasting a 500-mile range with a fully 81,000 lbs load were delivered to PepsiCo on December 1, 2022.
What are electric trucks?
The term “electric truck” refers to a battery-operated vehicle built for hauling goods, transporting specific payloads, or performing other utilitarian tasks. More than a century ago, electric trucks powered specialized equipment like milk floats, pushback tugs, and forklifts with heavy lead-acid batteries. However, the rapid development of lighter and more energy-dense battery chemistries in the twenty-first century has expanded the range of applicability of electric propulsion to trucks in many more roles.
In comparison to their internal combustion counterparts, electric trucks produce much less noise and air pollution. Electric trucks have significantly lower ownership and operating expenses than their gasoline-powered counterparts because of their power trains’ high efficiency, low component counts, lack of fuel consumption while idling, and smooth, noiseless acceleration. The price per kilowatt-hour of truck battery packs has dropped from $500 in 2013 to $200 in 2019 and further to $137 in 2020, with some vehicles falling under $100 for the first time in 2020, as reported by the United States Department of Energy.
The additional weight of batteries relative to fuel reduces payload capacity, and the alternative, more frequent recharging, reduces delivery time, making long-distance freight the least electrifiable trucking segment. In contrast, short-distance urban deliveries have been rapidly electrified due to the fact that electric trucks are quieter and cleaner than their diesel counterparts, and that the capacity of moderately sized batteries are well-suited to the everyday stop-and-go activity inside a metropolitan region.
In 2020, 7.6% of all trucks sold in South Korea—the vast majority of new trucks delivered in the country—were electric trucks.
The introduction of semi-autonomous and fully autonomous trucks into the trucking industry is definitely a game changer. A disruption to the entire industry in itself. As previously mentioned, there is a lot of scarcity, fear, and doubt that has been circulating. Primarily due to the potential impact of electric truck vehicles on the trucking industry. Furthermore, how such a piece of technology will affect the workforce. How many jobs will be lost? What will truckers be forced to do in order to continue feeding their families?
While there are many uncertainties, one thing is for sure. Electric trucks are here to stay. If anything, they are many years away from evolving fully. The trucking industry will be significantly evolved with such a piece of technology but probably many years away from fully replacing truckers.
Join The Sugar Creek Transportation Team
Are you a truck driver looking for a company that will not treat you like a number? Do you want to be a part of a family instead of a company that treats you like a notch on the belt? Do you have at least two years of driving experience? We are always looking for self-motivated, driven, and energetic people to join our family.