We’ve seen the future of trucking … kind of

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Updated May 15, 2017

Elon Musk during TED TalkAbout a week after tweeting a Tesla electric semi truck would debut in September, Elon Musk provided a glimpse of it at a TED talk during the 2017 TED Conference in Vancouver.

Tesla boss Elon Musk showed off this rendering of Tesla’s in-the-works Class 8 tractor.Tesla boss Elon Musk showed off this rendering of Tesla’s in-the-works Class 8 tractor.

Those are definitely LED lights. Other than that, the artwork doesn’t provide much more than a tease, but we can deconstruct a few things:

  1. The high-roof appears to be trailer-height, and there is probably a solar panel in it.
  2. The windshield looks to wrap around the front of the truck. Not surprisingly, you can probably expect some aggressive aerodynamic lines on the real-world model.
  3. It’s not street legal because it doesn’t have mirrors.

About 20 minutes into the TED Talk, host Chris Anderson notes the rendering doesn’t look like a “little friendly neighborhood truck. It looks kind of badass.”

Other than dropping a few keywords like “heavy-duty” and “long range,” and noting the truck would be one drivers would want to drive, Musk was detail-light on the semi.

“It’s meant to alleviate the heavy-duty trucking loads,” he says. “This is something which people do not today think is possible. They think the truck doesn’t have enough power or it doesn’t have enough range. With the Tesla semi, we want to show than an electric truck actually can out-torque any diesel semi.”

“This will be a very spry truck,” he adds. “You could drive this around like a sports car.”

Musk claims to have driven the the prototype in his parking lot, so either he doesn’t have a CDL or the truck really doesn’t have mirrors. I guess we’ll have to wait until September to find out.

Among the other interesting points of Musk’s roughly 40 minute TED talk is that he predicts the demise of most fuel cell programs, just as companies like Nikola Motor Company, Toyota and UPS begin to give rise to the fuel in transportation.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]