Car News

New Tesla Roadster Steals Electric Semi's Thunder As Both Debut

Tesla last night revealed two very different vehicles in its long-awaited electric semi truck and a new roadster, both of which make big, not-so-different performance promises.

The Roadster reveal was a surprise dessert to an event in which Elon Musk mumbled and stumbled his way through performance stats and high-level specifications for the vehicles.

Musk claimed his new semi, sans trailer, will accelerate from 0-60 mph (96 km/h) in five seconds and will do the same feat in 20 seconds when hauling 80,000 lb (36,300 kg), the maximum gross vehicle weight permitted in the United States. A loaded truck will be able to provide 800 km of driving range at highway speeds. He also said the truck, with a motor mounted at each wheel on the tractor's tandem rear axles, will haul that weight up a five per cent grade at 65 mph (about 105 km/h), where a typical diesel rig can manage no more than 45 mph (around 70 km/h).

He credits the truck's performance and range in part to a 0.36 coefficient of drag (.02 better than a Bugatti Chiron) that's aided by a flat bottom and side flaps that can be adjusted to match the width of any trailer. We imagine the full faired-in rear wheels have something to do with that, though Musk didn't mention that design feature.

Other tricks include a central driving position, full air suspension and active safety features that include automatic emergency braking, lane keeping, forward collision warning. Speaking to the truck drivers in the crowd, Musk said "your worst nightmare is gone with this truck," thanks to a jack-knifing prevention system that uses the four driven wheels as a stability control system of sorts.

There were two trucks on stage with Musk, one of which looked like a 3/4-sized version of the semi, and Musk referenced a pickup version based on the smaller one that would still be large enough to haul a light-duty full-size pickup in its bed. He made an offhand remark that said uber pickup would require only a standard driver's licence.

Some of the more outlandish claims about the full-size semi included Musk's guarantee that it would not break down for one million miles (1.6 million km!) of driving and that the regenerative braking system means "you'll never need to replace brake pads ever."

Tesla claims their truck will cut the cost of semi ownership to $1.26/mile, compared to $1.51/mile for a diesel rig, and convoy technology that will let one driver effectively control two other following trucks would reduce that to $0.85/mile, which Musk claims would make his trucks cheaper than transporting goods by train. 

Musk said Tesla is taking semi orders now for delivery in 2019.

Then, there's the new roadster, a gorgeous four-seat convertible which Musk called "a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars." With a 1.9-second 0-96 km/h sprint and an 8.9-second quarter mile time, it will mark the first time a production car has broken the two- and nine-second barriers for those particular performance benchmarks.

It'll be powered by three electric motors (one up front, two in the rear) fed by a 200 kWh battery that promises a 620 mile (998 km) driving range, enough to go from LA to San Francisco and back on a single charge.

The four-seater, with removable roof panels and "capacious" storage, will be available in 2020. The new Founders Series Roadster will start at C$322,000, according to prices listed on the Canadian Tesla site, and will be limited to the first thousand reservations. A 'base' new Roadster starts for US$200,000 south of the border, but no Canadian price for that model has been set.