Nov. 17–HAWTHORNE — Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Thursday night sprung a surprise on the world, using the launch of a new electric semi-truck to announce what he said will be the fastest production car in the world, a new Tesla Roadster.
“I won’t say what the actual speed is, but it’s above 250 miles per hour,” Musk told a crowd assembled at the company’s design studio just southwest of Los Angeles in Hawthorne. “The point of this is to give a hard-core smack down to gasoline cars.”
Musk showed off a prototype of the new vehicle, a convertible which he said will go from zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds and from zero to 100 in 4.2 seconds, as well as covering a quarter mile in 8.9 seconds.
“These are all world records,” Musk said.
The battery pack will allow the three-motor, four-seat car to travel 620 miles on one charge, enough to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back, Musk said. That will make the vehicle the first production electric car to cover 1,000 kilometers on a single charge, he said.
The Roadster, a new edition of the Palo Alto electric car maker’s first vehicle, will be available in 2020, Musk said. He boasted of roomy luggage storage, but warned that “you can’t put giant people in the rear seat.”
Tesla had kept quiet about the Roadster, with Musk reappearing after announcing the new electric semi-truck.
Musk touted the sleek, slope-nosed semi — guaranteed to go a million miles without breaking down — as better than diesel in every way.
With the launch, Tesla goes after a market for traditional and mostly diesel-powered trucks estimated to be approaching $34 billion a year.
“From day one having a Tesla semi will beat a diesel truck on economics,” Musk claimed. “It’s got a better drag coefficient than a supercar.”
If a driver has a medical emergency, the truck will automatically come to a gradual stop, and can call for help if the driver doesn’t respond to a prompt, Musk said.
The truck’s low center of gravity makes for good handling and roll-over prevention, and it’s technology makes jack-knifing impossible, Musk said.
The semi has automated-driving features including lane-keeping and automatic braking, and has four independent motors, he said.
“Even if you have only two of the motors active, it’ll still beat a diesel truck,” he said.
One one charge, Tesla’s truck can run for 500 miles at 60 miles per hour, carrying the maximum allowed weight in the U.S., said Musk, adding that 80 percent of trucking routes are less than 250 miles.
Production begins in 2019, he said. “Order now, you get the truck in two years,” he said. The prices of the truck and Roadster were not revealed.
Market research firm Markets and Markets has estimated that the global market for traditional semi-trucks will hit $34.3 billion by 2020.
On Thursday, as Tesla was about to announce its electric semi, an advocacy group for diesel vehicle and engine manufacturers, diesel refiners and device makers issued a statement strongly supporting the use of diesel-powered vehicles for trucking.
More than four million semi-trucks travel America’s roads, with more than 98 percent of them diesel powered, said the Diesel Technology Forum.
“Diesel is the most energy efficient internal combustion engine,” said Allen Schaeffer, the group’s executive director.
“It has achieved dominance as the technology of choice in the trucking industry over many decades and challenges from many other fuel types. Still, today, diesel offers a unique combination of unmatched features: proven fuel efficiency, economical operation, power, reliability, durability, availability, easy access to fueling and service facilities, and now near-zero emissions performance.”
Tesla’s two-vehicle launch comes as the company faces legal, financial and production issues. Its most recent quarterly earnings report beat analysts’ expectations with $2.98 billion in revenue, but revealed a $619 million loss and a three-month production delay for the entry-level Model 3 sedan. The firm this week was hit with a third lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at the firm, which Tesla said it had no role in.
Like the Model 3, Tesla’s live-streamed announcement of the new truck was delayed. Originally scheduled for 8 p.m., the company tweeted out just before then that it would go ahead at 8:15 p.m. It started at about 8:25 p.m.
Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs said Thursday that the transport-truck market was “ripe for change, from electrification, self-driving and connected,” but she noted that Daimler beat Tesla to the punch with the announcement of its electric semi, the E-Fuso Vision One, in October.
That advantages held by standard semis could limit the scale of electric trucks’ operations, said Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book managing editor Michael Harley, who said Tesla had “incorrectly aimed its sights.”
“Diesel fuel is readily available and relatively efficient for heavy long-haul trucks that cruise open highways at a fixed speed,” Harley said.
“A more appropriate target for the electric vehicle maker would be the short-haul.”
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