Keys to the first 30 Tesla Model 3’s will be handed over at a special event on July 28. That doesn’t make much of a dent in the 370,000 preorders Tesla currently has for the vehicle but they plan to ramp up to 20,000 units a month by December. The Tesla Model 3 retails at $35,000 and with an EV tax rebate it reduces to $27,000. It’s Tesla’s first mass-market vehicle and they’re planning on a very aggressive production schedule.
You Need Infrastructure
“Its proposed ramp-up schedule would have it rivaling well-established U.S. market peers like BMW and Mercedes by year’s end. The only thing standing between Tesla and being the world’s first mass-market electric carmaker is proving it can build, deliver, and service enormous numbers of these vehicles—without sacrificing quality.”
Why should truckers pay attention? The answer lies in that innocuous word in the last sentence of Bloomberg’s quote – “service.”
Marc Llistosella, Head of Daimler Trucks Asia, provides another quote which sheds more light.
“In trucks, of course [Elon Musk’s] stepping into it, but we don’t see him as someone who is threatening us because you need a whole infrastructure, you need dealerships, you need infrastructure, you need maintenance.”
The point of that statement being that an electric vehicle needs a wide range of infrastructure support. It’s not just about developing the biggest, fastest or best! Personally I think Elon Musk is ahead of the game and can teach Llistosella a thing or two. Tesla already have a global infrastructure in place and the launch of the mass-market Tesla Model 3 is the tipping point – can it scale? Here is what we know:
Can the commercial trucking industry rise to the same challenge? Can it learn from and leverage what Tesla is putting in place? I think we can!
Who Is Working on Zero Emission Commercial Vehicles?
The short answer is most everyone but here are some specific examples.
Cummings Inc., a major diesel engine supplier, plan to have a fully electric drivetrain ready by the end of 2019. Daimler plan to begin mass production of its eCanter light duty electric truck in 2019. With an expected range of 62 miles between charges it will be limited to urban deliveries.
The Nikola Motor Company introduced last year the Nikola One Class 8 hybrid hydrogen/electric truck. Powered by a 300 kW hydrogen fuel cell driving a 320 kW/hour battery it can drive 800 to 1200 miles on one fill with a full load.
Toyota have taken a similar approach with their “Project Portal” venture by using hydrogen fuel cells to power an 80,000 pound Class 8 tractor-trailer combo. The company is live testing short-haul drayage shuttling shipping containers between Los Angeles and Long Beach ports and various freight depots within a radius of 70 miles.
In September UPS will deploy its first electric hydrogen fuel cell, range-extended delivery trucks in Sacramento, California. Designed in partnership with the US DOE and others, the vehicles are intended to meet the same route and range standards as the company’s diesel trucks.
And of course Tesla themselves announced a semi-truck which will be launched in September. Details are hard to come by but according to Elon Musk, who drove a prototype around the parking lot, “it drives like a sports car.”
Long-Haul Faces the Greater Infrastructure Challenges
Charging stations and maintenance shops for short-haul trucks are much less of a challenge than long-haul, which is why we are seeing much more development in the short-haul category.
The majority of infrastructure challenges are for long-haul trucking. Nikola Motors plans to build its own network of 300 hydrogen stations across the country and Tesla, the remaining long-haul focused company, has infrastructure in place of which I’m sure some could be upgraded to accommodate semi-trucks.
Forward Thinking Gas Stations and Truck Stops Might Be the Best Solution
Rising fuel efficiency and electric vehicles will significantly disrupt gas stations and truck stops. According to the Washington Post federal estimates suggest that by 2035, US drivers could be consuming 20% less gasoline than they do today.
“Those kiosks that just sell gallons and smokes are going to have to change,” said John Eichberger, executive director of the NACS-founded Fuels Institute. “They’re going to lose gallons. Plain and simple, no way around it.”
To adapt the typical gas station of the future will look more like a restaurant or highway rest stop than a convenience store, in order to encourage higher-margin purchases while drivers wait for their vehicles to be charged.
Tristen Griffith is the president of the Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza, a truck stop:
“We want to sell gas and diesel, but our future is electric vehicles, and trucks are going to be driverless,” said Griffith. “Times are changing, and we need to keep up with that change as well, if we want to be smart and stay ahead of the game.”
Tesla is way ahead of the game. They are changing our future. Paying close attention to what Tesla are doing can only benefit anyone involved in the transportation industry.
If you’re interested in learning how shipping by rail might better meet your freight transportation needs call New Mexico Transloading at 505 – 908 – 1911. We’d be delighted to have a conversation with you.