The announcement of the Tesla Semi electric lorry included some grand figures, not least a 0-60mph time of 5.0sec. But how relevant are performance figures in an industry so heavily led by cost and business efficiency?
Not very, according to the UK's Road Haulage Association (RHA). “Hauliers don’t care about these claimed figures,” the RHA’s policy advisor, Rod McKenzie, told Autocar. “They’re not relevant to us. We’re not looking for performance, not least because lorries’ speed is limited to 56mph.”
McKenzie added that while the RHA thinks electric lorries are the way forward, they will not be in the short term. “My gut feeling is that they are 20 years away,” he said.
McKenzie named cost, range and cargo capacity as the main reasons why he reckons electric lorry uptake will not arrive for some time.
“I’m worried about the price point," he said. "The Tesla Semi is likely to cost more than £200,000, which is beyond the budget of hauliers in the UK. A lorry here costs £85,000. And with the industry making margins of 2-3%, we can’t afford that extra cost.
He continued: “The Tesla Semi has a reported range of 500 miles. That’s quite a lot less than a diesel lorry. It means charging. First of all, where are the charging points? There aren't many around. And lorries can be filled up with diesel very quickly. Musk said there would be quick-charging in 30 minutes but I think we need to see charging times in real terms. Any loss of time greatly reduces our operational efficiency.”
When asked how lorry drivers have reacted to the Semi, McKenzie said: “I’ve spoken to a few of them and most have laughed. Tesla has a lot to prove. Hauliers are not risk-taking people and will need to be convinced.”