Posted on July 26, 2016 by Matt Pressman
When reading through the Tesla Master Plan, Part Deux, it was widely expected that a fourth generation, lower-priced electric vehicle would be Tesla's logical follow-up to the Model 3. Many thought this economy compact car would come after the hypothetical Model Y (the Model 3 SUV variant) was released. However, it appears that CEO Elon Musk will be taking the company into a completely different direction in the next decade. Small cars are out and big trucks are in. Musk is intent on moving Tesla towards trucks, semis, and buses. Although surprising, this move could be a stroke of genius as these markets are ripe for innovation.
Source: Concept rendering of a Tesla pickup (Source: Autoguide / Tobias Büttner)
Is it possible these electric trucks could be used by governments and/or military applications? Last month, CNN reported that, "Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, met with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter Wednesday as the Pentagon looks to raise its technology game... The focus of the closed-door get together was 'innovation,' according to a Defense Department spokesman." After all, the government has been working on "skunk works" electric vehicles with wireless charging and b-directional capability to power homes. For example, check out this amazing project from Oak Ridge National Laboratory showcasing an electric 3D-Printed Utility Vehicle (PUV) by the U.S. Department of Energy for its AMIE Project.
Above: U.S. Department of Energy showing interest in innovation for both electric vehicles and home charging tech (Source: InsideEVs)
Thinking even bigger with Tesla Semis, Teslarati reports that a massive opportunity exists in this market, "Nearly 12,000 million tons of freight are hauled by trucks every year in the United States. A significant portion of that hauling is done by smaller trucks rather than large semi-trucks. Package carrying (van) trucks, dump trucks, refuse (garbage) trucks, and other specialized trucks are also common and actually make up a larger portion of the miles driven by heavy-duty trucking... we can assume that the company [Tesla] plans to design and potentially build heavy-duty trucks of all stripes. This is realistic given that major truck builders such as Paccar (Kenworth, Peterbilt), Volvo, Mack, etc. already do this."
Above: Concept rendering of a Tesla Semi (Source: Jalopnik)
Next up, the Tesla pickup truck has been on Musk's radar for some time. Electrek points out prior quotes from Musk foreshadowing this move, including when Musk stated, "I am quite keen on building a truck and I think there’s a lot one can do with truck technology... I was driving an F-250 down the 405 one day and... I thought my teeth were going to rattle out of my head. If you put load on it it’s fine, but if you’re empty it’s not. It would be good to do that and obviously to make it light and really handle well. That’s where having a battery pack low can improve the center of gravity. I think it’s possible to produce a really well-handling truck that feels good at any load point. That would be really great."
Above: Concept renderings of a Tesla pickup (Source: Electrek)
Last, for clues on where Musk might be taking Tesla with regard to his concept for high passenger urban transport, it's conceivable he might have something like the super bus reported on by Daily Mail UK which, "has eight gullwing-style doors on each side to allow for a swift exit... It was tested for the first time on ordinary roads around Abu Dhabi Airport, its [electric vehicle] batteries fired up by solar power." Although this is an extremely high-priced concept electric vehicle, check out some video below as it might provide insight into some possible directions Tesla might go...
Above: The electric super bus can travel at up to 155mph (Source: Daily Mail UK)
At this stage, little is know regarding Musk's plans for Tesla to get into the pickup, semi, and bus sectors other than the fact that he'll (likely) look to an all-electric powertrain with robust autonomous, self-driving features. That said, we look forward to more being revealed during the upcoming second quarter earnings call on August 3rd. We'll be sure to update you post-call.