With self-driving technology on the horizon, cars are not the only items of interest. From manufacturers to fleet operators to consumers, interest is keen on what the prognosis looks like for lending self-driving capabilities for trucks.
Transportation firms, for one, are looking to reduce both emissions and operating costs. As Reuters indicated, electric motors need less maintenance than internal combustion engines; "juice from the grid is cheaper than diesel."
We may not have to wait very long to see what effects electric trucks may have on transportation.
Back in June, Elon Musk made electric-truck headlines at the company's annual shareholders meeting when he mentioned a Tesla electric semi truck. As carried in Futurism, he said a working prototype would be shown off in at the end of September.
A key question regarding the readiness of electric self driving trucks has been how far can they go on a single charge? A Reuters report that carries comments from an executive outside of Tesla indicates Tesla might soon provide an answer in the form of its own electric truck.
The talk, in brief, is that Tesla is working on the Semi to have a driving range of 200 to 300 miles on a single charge.
Interesting Engineering pointed out that "However, this range has not been confirmed by Tesla nor Musk and neither the price tag of the truck has not been mentioned in any official statements. Interested buyers and industries wouldn't have to wait that long to find out though."
The information in the report from Reuters about range came from Scott Perry, chief technology and procurement officer at Ryder System. Tesla responded to Reuters' questions with an email, stating "Tesla's policy is to always decline to comment on speculation..."
Reuters said the plan "could change as the truck is developed," but that it was "consistent with what battery researchers say is possible with current technology."
That pales in comparison to what diesel trucks can accomplish on a tank of fuel.
Brandon Hill, Hot Hardware "While 300 miles may be sufficient for the daily travel needs of regular car drivers, that range falls well below that of diesel-powered long-haul trucks that can travel 1,000 miles or more before needing to refuel."
As for the range numbers, Marc Vartabedian in Reuters said that the prototype to be shown will be capable of traveling "the low end of what transportation veterans consider to be 'long-haul' trucking. Perry said, "right out of the gate I think that's where they'll start."
Perry said Tesla's efforts were centered on an electric rig known as a day cab— no sleeper berth. It was capable of going about 200 to 300 miles "with a typical payload before recharging."
Vartabedian said this is a sign that "Tesla is targeting regional hauling for its entry into the commercial freight market."
Some scenarios typical of regional trips might include moving goods from ports to cities nearby or moving product from warehouse to retail.
Reuters said according to Sandeep Kar, chief strategy officer of Toronto-based Fleet Complete, roughly 30 percent of U.S. trucking jobs were regional trips of 100 to 200 miles.
"So, in this instance," Hill said in Hot Hardware, "Tesla might have a viable niche."
Generally, opinions are strong that electric trucks present advantages not only as greener transport machines but cost-cutters after the initial investment is made.
"Ryder and its customers believe electric trucks could cost more to buy but may be cheaper to maintain and have more predictable fuel costs. As batteries become cheaper and environmental regulation increases, the case for electric trucks could strengthen," said Vartabedian.
Wayne Cunningham in Road/Show by CNET made a similar point: "With lower maintenance and fueling costs, electric trucks offer substantial benefits to fleet operators. Initial costs may prove prohibitive, but mass production of an electric truck holds the potential to rein that investment in."