Tesla Electric Semi – Should Diesel Mechanics Care?

Tesla Semi Driving

The new Tesla Electric Semi production was confirmed to go into production in 2019. It’s understood that J.B. Hunt Transport Services have already placed their order for the first several trucks. In fact, feel free to hit the Tesla Semi site and pre-order yours, for the low reservation price of $5,000. By the way, we’re sure that doesn’t pay for the semi.

On the surface, this seems like all rainbows and lollipops, and the Internet is astir with all the news. The trucking industry carries a revenue tag of almost $700B (billion, with a B), so it’s no mistake as to what Elon Musk and Tesla are after. Claims of performance and runtime are pretty staggering, considering these rigs haul loads north of 80,000 pounds. One of the questions that come to our mind is: what happens to our diesel mechanics?


Tesla Semi Performance

Tesla Semi Cockpit

Image: Courtesy of Tesla.com

Some of the performance numbers for this new Tesla electric semi are pretty staggering. They claim the Tesla semi will go 0 to 60, with a full 80,000 pounds, in just 20 seconds. Even on a 5% grade, the truck will reach speeds of 60 mph. Tesla’s website states the cost per mile would be just $1.26. This is a $0.25 savings from the $1.51 of a diesel truck. No price has been disclosed, but Tesla does claim a two-year payback. If there is truly a two-year payback, then why wouldn’t every trucking company pull the trigger on these?

Related Article: Future of the Combustion Engine

Some other bold claims from Tesla are that it’s the safest truck ever and the lowest cost of ownership. They even mention a $200,000 fuel savings, but they fail to mention a timeframe. Is this considering a 1M mile life?? Are there government subsidies built into these numbers? What is the total cost and actual savings? We would love to see the details.

Tesla Electric Semi and Diesel Mechanics

Tesla Semi Tractor

Image: Courtesy of Tesla.com

Diesel mechanics are some of our most dedicated employees in the automotive industry. This is the place where the few go to make a good living, but it requires or has required, many years of very tough work. Working on diesel trucks mostly involves grease pits and real wrenches. By real wrenches, we mean those measured with a whole number in front of the fraction. They carry around impact wrenches that have the same weight of a normal wheel and tire. Head gasket repairs require a forklift or gantry crane. Hard work and hard hours get logged every day, and nothing comes easy.

Fast forward, with Tesla in the mix, and the discussion turns to electric motors powered by batteries. As the transmissions and differentials give way to direct drive electric motors, controlled by a sealed ECM (Engine Control Module). Bluetooth now takes care of recalls and updates, and controllers get replaced by unplugging and…replacing them. For that matter, do the zerk (grease) fittings give way to sealed units?

Seriously though, we hope to see a well thought out transition to merge these two industries (electric and diesel) successfully—rather than a war. No one questions that electric is diving deeper and deeper into the combustion world. Many say it will ultimately replace it. What do we do with all these skilled mechanics? When diagnosing and troubleshooting is no longer done by a human, and technicians only become parts replacers, what then?


Final Words

Diesel Mechanic using CP Impact

Diesel Mechanic using CP Impact

I don’t stand on the opposing side of technology. In fact, I’m a big cheerleader for it. What concerns me is that for some reason the electric market has a huge push from government and a certain-leaning crowd. Good or bad, the details get pushed aside when there’s an agenda. If it makes sense, let’s do it! If it wreaks of sulfur, then why don’t we step back to the drawing board and think about it a while.

Electric powered semis don’t derive power from water or air. These things have hundreds of cells of lithium-ion batteries. This lithium is not entirely magic, and these cells require charging, at least every 500 miles. A solar panel sitting on a rooftop or single windmill can’t keep up with what these require. In fact, it’s probably a coal-fired power plant that will charge these batteries. My point is this: nothing is for free. Whether it’s money or natural resources, there is a cost to moving these trucks down the road. Don’t buy into the fact that a Prius and a Tesla electric semi are going to save the planet.

Lastly, we need to make sure to properly train our techs and mechanics. We must also continue to educate them on technologies coming down the pike. These diesel mechanics represent the lifeblood of the trucker—whether they know it or not. Of course, the trucker also drives (literally) the shipping industry. The money-holding consumer feeds this big monster, to the tune of almost $700B. Speak up and ask questions when something is amiss, hence don’t let any bureaucrats push their way through without a fight.

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