As the New Year rolled around, we highlighted a few trucking industry predictions for 2017. One of these predictions was the adoption of electric commercial vehicles. Last summer, Elon Musk released the company’s master plan, which briefly touched on the types of vehicles to be released. Now, the company’s first electric semi truck will be revealed in September. We’ve seen electric vehicles shake up the automobile industry, so will there be a Tesla takeover in trucking?
Many companies have already expressed interest in electric and even autonomous trucks, but it’s unclear if the industry is ready for them. More citizens are recognizing the impacts of traditional trucking and automobiles such as traffic, pollution, and the environment in general. In addition to citizens going green, companies are doing the same. People are more concerned with the carbon footprint they are leaving themselves, as well as the carbon footprint of the companies they buy products from. So, electric trucks could be beneficial, but there are also some concerns at this time.
The Uphill Battle for Tesla
Tesla Motors has not made a profit in its 14 years of operation, but recently surpassed Ford and General Motors in market value, making it one of the most valuable automobile companies in the United States. Despite its value, Tesla might have more trouble introducing the electric semi truck than originally thought. According to experts in the industry, Tesla has a number of barriers to overcome in order to be successful.
It’s safe to say that the competitive threat of Tesla entering and disrupting the trucking industry isn’t settling well for many. While there was already a marketplace for individuals looking to go electric with automobiles, there’s less of a following in trucking. But, Elon Musk doesn’t think this will be a problem, as more companies are looking to go green to support the changes in customer preferences.
Service & Repair
Tesla has already experienced this concern with its electric cars. Owners are inconvenienced since there are hardly any places for all-electric vehicles to go for repairs. However, the company won an automotive repair satisfaction survey in 2015 and launched programs to better cater to owners. As Tesla is looking to enter the trucking sector, the plan is to expand their mobile repair service and to reduce wait times.
Right now, there’s no place to charge a long-haul all-electric truck. Highway charging networks don’t exist yet, so it’s questionable how far these trucks will really be able to travel. It’s assumed that Tesla would devise a plan for charging trucks, but we haven’t heard anything about it yet.
Aside from the non-existent charging stations for trucks, it would be very time consuming to fully charge a semi truck. Of course, battery swapping and overnight charging could be options, but would still require significant changes in infrastructure and logistics. As more research surfaces, charging times could decrease, which would make this less of a barrier for Tesla.
While there are definitely some battles to overcome, Tesla’s plan isn’t completely shot. After Musk’s announcement, Tesla’s stock spiked about 2.5%, reaching a settling price of $304 when markets closed for the day. There are still many debates, but Tesla has a history of being an innovative automaker that disrupts industry norms. In Musk’s plan, it’s stated that the semi truck will result in a decrease of cargo transport costs and increase safety and fun. Also, electric trucks seem more reasonable than autonomous trucks right now.
Mercedes-Benz is taking steps to enter this market, with plans for an electric truck to be tested on German roads. Since there’s already some competition in this emerging market, it’s likely that electric trucks really aren’t too far from becoming a standard. We won’t jump to any conclusions quite yet, but it looks like there are many changes coming for the industry.