(New York) With Elon Musk at the wheel, Tesla delivered its first electric truck on Thursday, attempting to stamp its mark on the nascent market for emission-free heavy-duty trucks by promising to drive long distances without stopping at the charging point. .
The head of the manufacturer arrived at the controls of the vehicle, stopping a few meters from an audience of guests to hand over the keys to the PepsiCo food group, at the Tesla factory in Nevada.
With its cab with rounded lines for aerodynamics and the driver’s seat placed in the middle, the truck was presented in 2017. But the launch of its full-scale production, initially planned for 2019, has been delayed.
“It’s crazy what has happened in five years […] but here we are, it’s real,” Elon Musk said at the beginning of his presentation.
Other automakers have already invested in the niche, be they traditional heavy-vehicle makers like Daimler, Volvo, Traton (a Volkswagen subsidiary) and China’s BYD, or start-ups like US-based Nikola. Deliveries are just beginning, but many orders have been placed.
Tesla’s truck was especially anticipated because if the group follows through on its promises, it “will make a big difference,” says Dave Mullaney, a transportation specialist at sustainable development firm RMI.
Elon Musk repeated it on Thursday: the loaded truck, with a total weight of almost 37 tons, can go 500 miles (805 kilometers) without recharging, when the vehicles currently on sale offer a range of 250 to 300 miles (400 to 480 kilometers). ). .
To be able to transport heavy loads over long distances, “the battery has to be very large; it’s heavy, it takes up space and it’s very expensive,” recalls Mike Roeth, director of the North American Council for Transportation Efficiency (NACFE). “Industry players have long wondered if it is physically possible to have a battery that is powerful enough without being too heavy to get the job done. »
The transition to electric vans that deliver across town or over short distances has been underway for some time.
If heavy electric vehicles can go 800 kilometers without having to recharge, this opens the niche for long-distance journeys, with a return to the depot the same afternoon or over several days if the driver can find a terminal to take a break. . .
Manufacturers and carriers are bound by the regulations. In the United States, California passed a law that provides for the gradual elimination of trucks with combustion engines, followed since then by other states. The European Union must discuss new standards in the coming months.
Companies are also paying more and more attention to being environmentally conscious in order to preserve their reputation. They “want to be on the right side of history,” remarks Marie Chéron, of the European Transport & Environment association.
According to Tesla, large trucks account for 1% of vehicles in the United States, but produce 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Another incentive for carriers given the shortage of truckers, the latter seem to appreciate electric trucks, silent, without the smell of fuel, without big bumps, easier to drive.
Elon Musk also made this point Thursday by praising the Semi’s look: “If you want the most starting truck on the highway, this is the one. »
For the adoption of electric trucks to accelerate, it is necessary that the autonomy really corresponds to the promises and ideally that the batteries are smaller, say several analysts interviewed by AFP.
Infrastructure must also adapt, with more charging stations and a strong enough electricity grid to allow, for example, ten trucks to connect to a parking lot at the same time. The price will be decisive.
At the moment, buying an electric truck still costs 70% more than buying a diesel truck, but it costs less in terms of power and maintenance, says Dave Mullaney.
Tesla had indicated in 2017 that it would offer two versions, at $150,000 and $180,000, but has since given no indication of price.
Elon Musk, also busy since the Twitter takeover, indicated in late October that he was aiming to build 50,000 Semis by 2024.
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