Game Changer: Tesla unveils 500-mile-range Semi (and just for fun: 620 mile range Roadster)

From our community:

Last night, AKALib wrote a diary liveblogging the reveal of the new Tesla Semi — but unfortunately it didn’t get the attention that it deserved. The importance of this vehicle — and how impressive it is — cannot be overstated. For years, as electric cars have steadily shown that they’re on a path to replacing gasoline vehicles, the oil market has fallen back on the fact that freight shipping will continue to underpin its consumption.  This vehicle is a missile aimed straight at that notion.

Before the release of the Semi, leaks had suggested that it would be capable of trips of 200-300 miles.  One report just a few days ago suggested 300-450 miles. The actuality blows away these expectations: the initial launch (with more variants to come) is a 500 mile-range day cab. That’s 500 miles at highway speed with 40 tonnes gross weight (maximum allowable on US roads). The range without a trailer was not stated, but should be several times higher.  According to the website, a shorter-range 300 mile variant will also be offered.

Oh, but it gets better. Tesla is famous for its supercharger network — often considered its ace in the hole against rivals. Most EVs that support DC “fast” charging don’t support more than 40-50kW and charge from CHAdeMO/CCS chargers that are scattered, on different networks, commonly one charger per site, and poorly monitored and maintained. By contrast, Teslas charge on a single global network of fairly evenly spaced charging stations, each with multiple chargers (minimum of 2 chargers / 4 stalls), up to dozens. They’re highly monitored, well maintained, and support charging currents of up to 120kW per vehicle — making road trips practical. The Model 3 LR, for example, can add 70-75 miles of range in 10 minutes of charging when below half a charge.

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Tesla is now preparing to extend the Supercharging network to higher powers and larger vehicles (Semi) with new “Megachargers”. These chargers — with a guaranteed price of 7 cents per kilowatt hour (aka, immune to oil price fluctuations), and all with integrated solar+grid battery buffers at the stations — can surge charge Semi to an 80% charge in 30 minutes.  To emphasize how impressive this is:

  • Diesel semis today generally take 15 minutes to fill anyway
  • The full range of this vehicle is about 7 hours of highway driving, meaning you need a break regardless. Indeed, in the EU it’s mandatory to have 45 minutes of breaks per 4,5 hours of driving.
  • The chargers can be integrated into loading docks, so that it happens while loading and unloading.

Furthermore, 80% of road freight shipping today involves trips of 250 miles or less.  This means that a Semi, without any charging infrastructure at all on the destination end, could serve 80% of US routes hauling a maximum payload both directions without recharging.