By Gary Norman
There is no denying that EVs are here to stay, or that as the techonlogy improves so does their range of movement. It is indeed this range, or lack thereof that has deterred so many people from relying on EVs as their main means of transport. But as battery technology steadily improves, along with the infrastructure that ensures a charging point is never far away, this range anxiety becomes less and less of an issue. The viability of EVs as personal transportation that has long been in doubt has rapidly become a relative certainty, and even though, currently, total sales pale in comparison with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, they are set to turn the entire industry on its head. It seems then, that in a very short space of time the implausable has become assured, but what if we take that implausability and step it up a gear?
The shift from transport of people to that of freight is indeed massive, as surely are the expectations of potential customers. The inconvenience of range anxiety, ie the fear of being stranded with no means to reach your destination, becomes a legitimate logistical concern with enormous implication for profit margins, and ultimately the very survival of a business. If goods don’t reach their destination on time, why would a customer continue to have faith in your promise to deliver? With this in mind the question of whether a gap in the market for an electric semi-truck even exists is certainly a valid one, and if so, is it able to be filled?
In April of last year Tesla seemingly answered both of those questions with the announcement of its semi-truck, with its usual reticence for details. At the unveiling of the truck last Novemeber, Tesla finally released some very impressive specs, but these specs posed more questions than they answered, with some asserting that they defied the laws of physics.
Tesla’s assertion that it can produce a truck capable of taking on tried and trusted diesels is empty unless it can find companies that have faith in its ability to deliver. As of January of this year there are 19 companies with that faith, including companies for whom delivery is their business, such as UPS and DHL, as well as companies like WalMart and Pepsi that rely on logisitics as the backbone to their profitability. What are the factors that are encouraging such companies to have this faith in a product with a higher initial investment and a lack of certainty about performance?