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Elon Musk: Tesla electric lorry to be unveiled in late October

Tesla is set to launch its first electric lorry, which is expected to be able to drive itself, in late October as the company attempts to break into the commercial market.

Chief executive Elon Musk said that the “Tesla Semi truck” is “tentatively scheduled” for unveiling and first test rides one month behind schedule on 26 October in Tesla’s hometown of Hawthorne, California.

“Worth seeing this beast in person. It’s unreal,” said Musk on Twitter.

The commercial trucking industry appears interested in Musk’s proposed battery-powered heavy-duty vehicle, which can compete with conventional diesels and travel up to 1,000 miles on a single tank of fuel. But analysts remain sceptical that battery technology, which takes up significantly more volume and is heavier than conventional fuels, is capable of matching diesel as a power source without reducing the truck’s maximum payload.

Tesla’s electric big-rig truck could have a working range of only 200 to 300 miles, according to reports, which would make it more suitable for inner-city transport than long-distance motorway haulage.

Autonomous driving and road trains

Tesla’s plans for new electric vehicles, including a commercial truck called the Tesla Semi, were announced last year, and in April Musk said the release of the semi-truck was set for September. The company is betting on both electrification and autonomous driving systems that could eventually remove the need for a driver, but in the short term could increase efficiency and safety.

Tesla is competing with Alphabet’s former Google self-driving systems, now called Waymo, and Uber’s commercial transport research projects, which aim to produce similar vehicles and services.

In August, leaked correspondence with vehicle regulators revealed Tesla’s plan to test long-haul, electric lorries that move in so-called platoons, or road-trains, that automatically follow a lead vehicle driven by a human. Computer-controlled lorries driving much closer together could increase the aerodynamic efficiency of the chain of vehicles. The front vehicle takes the brunt for the group in pushing the air out of the way as it travels along the road, reducing drag for the rest of the platoon and therefore reducing transport costs and emissions.

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The Department for Transport announced last month that platoons of self-driving lorries will be trialled on England’s motorways. Tesla has been seeking to test its electric trucks in Nevada and California.

The UK Government said new vehicles driven by diesel and petrol engines will be banned from 2040 as part of efforts to tackle air pollution, forcing automotive manufacturers to consider electrification as well as alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen.


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