Tesla has scored several early sales wins for one of the two new electric vehicles it unveiled last week, with big fleet operators in Canada and the U.S. putting down deposits of US$5,000 apiece for electric semi trucks the company won’t deliver until 2019 at the earliest.
CEO Elon Musk made his customary extravagant promises at last week’s launch event. Tesla’s big rig will haul 80,000 pounds 620 miles (1,000 kilometres) on a single charge and restore its battery in the time it takes its driver to down a meal and coffee. The other new vehicle introduced was a roadster with neck-snapping acceleration and a US$200,000 price tag. The roadster might sell a few copies to rich enthusiasts, CBC reports. But the electric semi could transform an industry if it can overcome some initial skepticism and shortcomings.
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While electric semis with far fewer moving parts may cut operating costs—in theory making up for an anticipated higher initial price—even Musk’s promised “long” range is only about half the distance a diesel truck can cover on a full tank. And for drivers monitored on the road by the minute, that half-hour charging time may still be too long.
“I can see it for cities, but I don’t see it for highway,” Mississauga, Ontario-based driver Charlie Harrison told the national broadcaster.
“There’s always that question of range anxiety,” added John Smith, editor of Today’s Trucking Magazine. “Are they going to be able to travel far enough? Are they going to be light enough and be able to carry an efficient amount of cargo and, ultimately, the cost too?”
The early answer appeared to be positive at least for some influential fleet buyers. In what may have been a coordinated announcements, J.B. Hunt, one of America’s biggest trucking companies, Walmart, and Canada’s Loblaws all placed orders for Tesla’s trucks.