Tesla and the end of trains

When Tesla started hyping their new commercial rigs the world took notice and the hype machine went to work. Prophesizing an all electric 18 wheel vehicle that could go 2-300 miles on a single charge. Adequate to go from it’s battery assembly plant to there vehicle assembly plant.

The hype machine got it wrong, way wrong. What we got instead is nothing short of revolutionary and puts the entire transportation sector on notice, both in what was said and what was implicitly implied.

The truck itself being battery powered is much safer than normal trucks as its center of gravity is much lower due to the batteries and motors being between the wheels instead of over them. It’s also much more aerodynamic without the need for the engine in front, something new trucks are continually chasing for fuel economy.

Other trucks aren’t even in the same ball park however as it’s so aerodynamic it’s actually beating out many super cars designed with this in mind.

The Tesla truck also innovates in many other ways, such as a center seat designed to give a superior view of the road. Flanked by screens that allow for every aspect of the truck to be monitored in real time by the driver and the fleet managers via the stellar applications available already and to come. The windshield it should be noted is extremely strong, with rigs breaking one about every year and causing the vehicle to be pulled from the road. It may be so strong that it actually lasts the life of the truck, which is said to be at least 1 million miles or about 10 years at 100k miles. Tesla actually promises the truck wont break down (mechanically) for over 1 million miles as the vehicle could lose 2 of it’s 4 motors and still continue on.

And those motors

There is actually 4 of them, able to drive the wheels independently. Dramatically improving acceleration (which is a stunning 5 seconds unloaded and 20 seconds with 40 tons to 60 mph) but also traction and braking, which actually can be done with the motors alone. A fact Tesla noted that makes brake pad changes a thing of the past and with computer aided assistance prevents jackknifes in most circumstances (probably not ice?) It also dramatically improves braking performance.

Behind the drivers seat is a bench for relaxing as it was stated that all of the trucks sold will come with autonomous driving capability, allowing the driver to go hands off and in the future even take a nap in the back while it motors on at 65mph even up a grade of 5% like hauling over the Rockies. A fact Tesla noted was 50% faster than current vehicles (the drivers on the Cajone Pass love you Elon)

It also gets 500 miles of range…

Not 200, not 300, but 500 miles on a single charge allowing a driver to essentially work as many hours as allowed and only stop for 30 minutes with a driver change at the forthcoming Mega Chargers, to add another 400 miles of range still. There is a cheaper base model that does go only 300 miles…pft!

Yes it’s expensive, no doubt, but…

The but is that total cost per mile factoring in maintenance and the 7 cents per KWH Tesla will charge for solar powered fill-ups, which drops from about 1.60 per mile to 1.20 per mile, saving 400,00.00 over 1 million miles, at 2.50 per gallon of Diesel…. Prices near the Port of Los Angeles are much higher at up to 3.65 a gallon today and projected to rise sharply due to carbon related legislation up to what some see as easily 6-8.00 per gallon in the next decade. A shocking amount that will make owners and operators either fill up across state lines or relegate Diesel trucks to the scrap heap as losing millions per truck is simply not an option to stay competitive and will likely weigh heavily on any bank looking to finance new vehicles.

But wait, there’s more, much, much, much, much, more.

Something Elon said but I don’t think was very well understood, (thanks in part to that other vehicle shortly after) is when he talked about autonomy.

Yes, the trucks can effectively drive themselves, which can eventually cut out the cost per mile of the driver, but also allows for road trains of many vehicles close together. Cutting the costs down sharply to 90 cents a mile due to aerodynamics, cheaper than trains….


Why is this so important?

A 1000000 pound vehicle that’s fully autonomous doesn’t just make rail for cargo irrelevant, it makes rail for passengers irrelevant.

Companies today are working on systems that allow a single operator to control a fleet of 30 vehicles during an 8 hour shift, only taking over in the short term once the vehicle leaves the highway and heads towards it’s final destination. Further reducing costs by eliminating the need for 29 extra drivers.

But why does this need to be cargo? It doesn’t.

The systems that will be in place to assume control of the vehicle if the driver doesn’t respond will also replace them soon enough and makes the road safer for everyone which paves the way for autonomous buses as well.

A dirty secret of rail, is that in metro areas it consumes up to 4 lanes of traffic real estate and moves a tiny fraction of what those lanes could move on their own. Just imagine Los Angeles with no traffic instead of more traffic in 10 years?

Buses don’t need rails, they don’t need stations, they don’t need 1 mile to stop. They go wherever and whenever and in trains of several buses, take up much less space as well and take a single lane, not 4.

Large electric vehicles are going to be a gold rush for tour companies able to operate at costs that rival the most efficient small gas cars today and they are going to mean an end for costly, less efficient boondoggles that blight major urban areas all across the US. It might even allow for the taxes collected to go to more worthwhile efforts even…more likely cities like Los Angeles will just start reducing lanes until the traffic stays the same or gets worse as they have been doing with shutting down Times Square to cars and narrowing Sunset Drive so that bicycles can more easily use one of the most dangerous roads in Los Angeles….

The first person to come up with a shipping container sized tour bus module, or something for the RV crowd that could even let them rent out their truck when they don’t need it….


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