There's no reason Elon Musk shouldn't be under indictment right now.
The truck can drive 500 miles on a single charge, which was higher than some analysts had expected. That may mean that, in terms of range, the vehicle could meet the needs of long haul truck drivers.
Tesla will also build a network of Tesla "Megachargers" that will charge the trucks' batteries to a 400 mile range in 30 minutes.
Ok, let's talk about this.
There apparently were eight charging ports, and with a 100kw battery behind each that would be 800Kw. To deliver 90% of capacity in 30 minutes you'd have to deliver approximately 1.5 Megawatts plus losses; batteries are 80-85% charge efficient during the bulk phase until they reach about 80% of capacity (at which point their efficiency goes down materially) and the electronics to control the charge have loss too -- probably in the neighborhood of 10%. So we have a 76%, more or less, efficiency on the charge rate which means we must deliver almost exactly 2 Megawatts to the truck for that 30 minutes.
I note that 500 kilowatts has to be dissipated somewhere for that entire period in the truck or the batteries, controller equipment or both catch on fire. This is a serious problem all on its own that I am not convinced Musk can solve.
Then there is the economic issue. Musk claims he's going to "guarantee" a 7c/kwh price for all that power. How he thinks he can do this in a commercial environment where demand meters are used by law is beyond me; the first time a trucker needs to be charged at 4:00 PM on a 95 degree day there will be a very large surprise delivered in the form of the bill. Never mind that the trucker (or company) will be paying for the 25% losses too; you get to pay for the entire megawatt-hour even though you only keep 75% of it; the rest heats the air. Apparently Musk thinks that he can simply build "battery packs" to store energy and thus charge them when the power is cheaper. Ok, that's fine and well, except (1) now you have another 25% loss, stacked (you take one when you charge the pack when "cheaper" and then when the truck is charged) and for each truck's worth of capacity in said battery bank he gets to buy another battery that would otherwise go in the truck, plus another 25% to cover the losses when the truck is charged, plus the electronics to charge, discharge and control that "banked" pack. Somehow this all is going to "work out" to 7 cents/kwh.
Let me make this clear: No it won't. If Tesla guarantees that rate to the buyer then Tesla will absorb billions in losses and the more trucks are on the road and the more miles they drive the more money the company loses.
But it pales beside what Musk claims to be able to do when it comes to charging these trucks in the first place. The average house in the United States consumes about 12 megawatt/hours of energy over the entire year, or about a megawatt-hour per month. Musk intends to suck twice as much energy from the electrical grid as your house consumes in a month in 30 minutes.
To put some perspective on this that means that one such truck charging will place approximately the same load on the grid as 1,400 houses. One truck.
What happens when 20 of them show up at the truck stop? You know they do that today -- they fill their diesel tanks and they're on their way, although they typically only fill said tanks half as often as these batteries will require charging.
So it won't be 20 of them it will be 40 since their range-before-refueling is about half of common OTR trucks now. Now we're talking about the load of roughly 57,000 additional houses that will be instantly presented to the grid and which the grid must be able to support -- per truck stop or terminal!
Who's going to pay to build all that out and with what will they do so?
It won't be Elon Musk.
I don't believe Musk can deliver this thing at all, nor do I believe he can deliver the Roadster either as the double-size battery pack required to do so (against today's Model S and X) won't fit in the chassis. So that problem exists too, and it's not an easy one to solve.
Finally, when it comes to the truck there are some other interesting issues related to efficiency. See, this thing is supposed to be able to couple to any existing trailer. Ok, fine, but existing trailers are flat-backed and thus have fairly nasty aerodynamics. You've seen the "trailer tail" things on some of them, I'm sure -- a flip-out contraption that cuts -- somewhat -- the aerodynamic drag generated by the turbulence at the rear of the vehicle. I'm not at all confident the sort of highway range Musk is talking about can be achieved without material improvement in the aerodynamics at the rear and bottom of the vehicle, which means "no standard trailers for you sir!"
That leads to a very large problem; you see flat-back trailers are that way so they can be backed into a loading dock and both loaded and unloaded. It also makes intermodal (container) shipping possible since a container can be dropped onto a skeleton trailer that locks into the corners of the rectangular container box. How do you do that if you apply real and effective aerodynamics to the rear and bottom/sides of the trailer? You don't. While there are answers to this problem they likely involve a complete renovation of how loading docks are designed and work today, never mind container ships, and that design is literally everywhere from the corner grocery store to the large manufacturing center. Good luck with shoving that change down every receiving and shipping dock in the nation's budget, never mind the expected gross increase in size such changes would require (e.g. for "side loading" or similar.) Oh, and since there are length limits on combination vehicles (tractor/trailers, etc) as well you either get to forfeit quite a bit of usable cargo volume or the laws have to be changed to accommodate the materially-longer aerodynamic section of said trailer!
All of the foregoing assumes you believe 800kw of battery is enough. I'm not so sure. The math doesn't pencil today on that and I don't see how Tesla can overcome the deficit under any plausible scenario. Today's diesel truck gets ~8.5mpg, roughly, fully loaded @ 80,000lbs gross (maximum 50-state legal limit.) Diesel contains ~136,000 btu/gal, so if we take 500 miles (maximum range of said EV truck) we would need ~60 gallons of fuel containing ~8.2 million BTUs if that was a conventional diesel-powered tractor. A modern diesel (with all of its computer controls and transmission) can achieve very close to 40% thermal efficiency in steady-state on-road operation (assuming ~5% gearbox and parasitic loss), which means 3.264 million BTUs have come out the business (driveshaft) end of the engine and transmission when it finishes burning that 60 gallons of fuel.
Musk's 800kw battery only has 2.7 million BTUs of energy in it. That's 18% short, roughly, but in fact it's worse than that because neither his motors or the PWM controllers for them are lossless, and remember, we've accounted for the diesel's engine and transmission/accessory inefficiency. If we assume Tesla's electric motors are 90% efficient (possible but unlikely; 85% is more-likely but I'll give him the other 5) and the controller is also 90% efficient (possible) the stacked loss there is 19% so now he only delivers 648kw over that same period of time to the driveshaft(s).
In other words he's not short 18% on energy content he's short a whopping 32%!
I call immediately on him being able to improve the total loss budget by 32% ex engine and transmission -- which basically means through aerodynamics since his truck still needs to roll on tires and the trailers are identical -- so he can't get much if anything on rolling resistance. That leaves aero and to obtain that sort of gain even on the freeway, say much less in combined-cycle use, would be enormous.
Oh, and the batteries? They come off the useful load of the truck as well, so on a dollars per pound-mile moved for cargo the electric truck has a further deficiency to overcome. In short his claimed range and parity level for power is a big stretch right up front!
In the end what we have here is Musk promising to deliver what he can't today, and he's counting on two things to bail him out:
- Wall Street will continue to give him money on the come in the hope that the technology in batteries advances fast enough for him to be able to actually build the packs and fit them in the vehicles, along with solving the heat dissipation problem during charging that would otherwise cause the vehicle to catch on fire and be destroyed. Given the relatively short timeline he has set for himself I rate the odds of this happening as perhaps one in a thousand since none of this can be done today.
AND (not or)
- The Government will force you to pay for his charging systems by having a gun shoved up your nose and the money extracted from you both for the additional generating capacity necessary and infrastructure upgrades to get that generating and power-delivery capacity to the truck stops and terminals effectively none of which currently have anywhere near that sort of capacity available to them. Oh by the way many of these terminals are a long way away from existing generating capacity and high-voltage transmission equipment so the build-out cost will be even worse -- by a lot -- than it first appears. As a conservative guess this is likely to put a 15-30% increase on your home electric bill should any material percentage of the OTR fleet convert. There are roughly 1.9 million heavy and tractor-trailer drivers employed today; consider what would happen if 500,000 trucks were to attempt to convert to electric drive each of which would require a 2 Megawatt charge for 30 minutes every six operating hours. There is no possible way to support any material percentage of the current OTR trucks converting to electric power on the existing grid and this build-out will not be paid for by Tesla or the trucking companies if it is attempted -- it will be paid for by you.
Theft as a business model is a crime. Promising that which you can only deliver via speculative advances in technology and by stealing a large part of your operating cost from others who do not use it ought to land your ass in prison and reduce your company to a smoldering pile of ash.
Then again Hastings did exactly that to America with Netflix and Net Neutrality and Amazon's Bezos does it daily with cross-subsidizing product sales with AWS, including to the Federal Government (which means he steals from every taxpayer to do so), so why shouldn't Musk rob everyone of tens of thousands of dollars in his plan to "build" these trucks right up front, since you didn't lynch Hastings or Bezos when they did it and in fact rewarded both with billions.
This **** has to stop, the firms doing it must be destroyed and their executives imprisoned.