Bloomberg Writer Admits He Was Wrong and Tesla Semi Could Win

Bloomberg journalist, David Fickling, said the Tesla Semi would fail in 2017 but in 2022 David Fickling admits that the Tesla Semi will succeed.

David Fickling has covered energy and commodities for Bloomberg News, Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

Here are the key points from David Fickling:

* The Volvo Semi has 3 tons of batteries for its 540 kWh pack. Tesla’s 900-1000 kWh pack is almost 6 tons.

* Fickling writes that a regular Class 8 semi-trailer with half a metric ton of diesel in its tank can haul a 20-ton load for 1,000 miles between refueling stops.

NOTE: I proved that the Tesla demo drive of 500 miles was moving a 22-ton load.

UPDATE: I have also calculated the weights and capacity of the Tesla 300 Range Semi and the Tesla 500 Range Semi and compared it to Freightliner diesel and Freighliner electric.

* Logistics is an extremely low-margin industry. JB Hunt Transport Services, one of the biggest US operators, last year made roughly $1.63 per mile of revenue in its long-haul intermodal business, roughly half of which goes on fuel.

* Musk may end up getting the last laugh.

Fickling was laughing in 2017 but believes Musk Semi wins in 2022. The change is the price of diesel. Diesel prices have doubled.

There is detailed online truck expenditure calculator here.

Using the current prices of Californian diesel and commercial electricity into the trucking expenditure calculator made by logistics-data company ACT Research Co., and even an electric rig that is much more expensive the price to buy than a conventional diesel truck, EV Semi gets 12% cost savings every mile, equivalent to nearly $17,000 a year at typical usage level.

Logistics is a huge and diverse industry with plenty of niches for electrified trucking. Last-mile deliveries from warehouses to stores and homes probably offer the best opportunities.

Long-haul trucking moves plenty of low-density cargoes like potato chips, throw pillows and apparel where battery trucks would do great. Buyers can afford to experiment: the 20 Tesla Semis on order by FedEx is the start of a converting parts of the 86,000 Fedex fleet.

The other advantage for Tesla is the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) which will be in effect for 10 years from 2023-2032. The IRA gives Tesla Semi a $40,000 discount and IRA gives a 30-50% tax incentive for all Megapacks which will be used for charging. Pepsi is using a $15 million California grant to pay for some of the Tesla Semi and four 750 kW charging.

37 thoughts on “Bloomberg Writer Admits He Was Wrong and Tesla Semi Could Win”

  1. The additional weight for EVs will result in much faster road degradation. We have trouble maintaining road and highways as it is. This is one of the hidden costs of EVs, not only dollars but energy cost.

  2. Why the rush? Because there is credible evidence that we don’t have time to waste.

    I think you overestimate the need for 24/7 charging. The whole reason the price of electricity fluctuates is because demand and supply also fluctuate. When the wind blows and sun is shining every user and storage facility will max out their draw, and then slack off at peak pricing. That’s ideal for charging batteries, as you have a choice when to use power.

    If there are supply shortages then there will be price incentives for utilities to build out more wind and solar.

  3. It may be a good time to ask, “why the rush to convert 100% of transportation to electric by 2035 or whenever?” The goal is supposedly to have a “carbon- free” transportation sector.

    The conversion to EVs as now planned will not achieve that. The electricity required must come from new generating capacity, as the grid is now pretty much maxed out with legacy loads. New wind and solar generation will not meet the transportation needs, as transportation recharging energy must be available 24/7 or the logistical system collapses. New nuclear would take decades to come on line in sufficient quantities to meet the needs, and virtually non is even in the planning stages. So- the new generation would need to be coal or natural gas, which could be built in the necessary time- frame, if not tied up in endless permitting battles. Of course, they require new gas or coal supplies, which is planned for elimination. So nothing works.

    Assuming the new fossil generation could be built and fueled, the thermal efficiency of fossil power plants averages 40%, about the same as that for diesel engines. Plus the electric transmission/ distribution system losses are about 10%, and the charge/ recharge cycle for batteries loses another 10% to 20%. Add it all up, and the total consumption of hydrocarbons (and the release of CO2) in central power stations is very close to what is emitted from IC engines in the vehicles we now have.

    So- decades of disruption to our power and transportation systems- and we still have about the same carbon emissions as when we started. And nowhere close to zero. Are we crazy??

  4. Has anyone considered the cost of battery replacement? Has this multi-ton array been tested to its limit; if so, and we know what it is, has replacement cost been baked into the $12k annual maintenance for the plug-in electric? I believe that maintenance for the EV would have two partially-offsetting variables vs. the diesel version – lower cost of routine service and repairs due to fewer moving parts, and (I suspect) much higher annual cost for replacement. I realize that this discussion has focused on one trip, and appreciate the attempt to isolate the relevant variables, but its apples-to-oranges in the long-run without a more nuanced approach to the other costs. Perhaps that’s a study for another time?

    • Have you considered batteries last longer than a typical vehicle an average consumer used,Imagine all that oil,gas, exhaust,and plethora of gas cars need to fix that an otherwise electric vehicles don’t even have.

    • Assuming the prices are similar to the model S, and the $20,000 price tag for a battery, your car ownership costs would save you about $30,000 pre-battery-replacemebt, your still $10k ahead after….

      • Maybe $10k if the gas-powered car carries the same price, but most such cars similar in size sell for less. While I am aware that EV routine maintenance will be far less than for the IC car, I have questions about the $30k savings. Is the time period the same for both the EV battery life and maintenance for both cars the same? What is the assumed EV battery life? What are the assumption details for the IC car?

    • I suspect these batteries will last well over 500,000 miles. To me it looks like the way Pepsi is using them they will last at least a million.

      • Based on limited experience so far for passenger cars, I don’t see how a 500,000 mile guess can be supported. The data for long-term usage of these batteries does not exist, as far as I know. Is there any reason to believe that they will last significantly longer than their smaller cousins?

        • Yes, battery life depends on cycles (0-100%), the larger the battery, less cycles for the same mileage, thus longer life. Model 3 has a battery of about 75kwh and lasts 100k miles no problem. So Semi with 750kwh battery can get 10x miles on same number of cycles, which is 1million miles.

          • Is the cycle factor better for the electric 18-wheeler because it is traveling more miles before each recharge or are the large batteries otherwise more efficient, or both? If the trucker recharges the batteries every 500 miles (maybe fewer, as recharging will likely be during rest stops). If we use 500, then it seems the implicit assumption is that passenger/local delivery EV’s will recharge every 50 miles. Did I understand that correctly? Another factor affecting battery life is time degradation. Would this be the same for both? Will long-haul large batteries carry a 1,000,000 mile warranty vs. the common 100,000 for passenger EV’s (perhaps 10 years for both)? Furthermore, time could have a greater effect on large battery usage because the application of cost-benefit discipline on replacement timing could result in the swap earlier than the 10-year assumption, given thin freight transportation operating margins.
            Another factor, temperature, can we assume no comparative difference?

  5. The biggest advantage electric vehicles have over IC engines is regeneration. Recovering braking energy in short haul/ delivery/ stop and go use also fits the operating profile for vehicles that return to home base every day. This greatly simplifies charging infrastructure requirements. Distribution and last- mile delivery are good fits. Electrification of this segment could be done fairly quickly, location by location, if the right EVs became available.

    Long haul trucking is different. It is a continual high horsepower grind. Much energy is lost to friction and air resistance. There is much less opportunity for regenerative energy recovery. As a result, the advantages of EVs are small. This is why hybrid cars have city ratings 30% to 40% better than similarly powered IC cars- but much smaller benefits in highway mileage. And the disadvantages of EVs are great- limited range, the need for vast new recharging networks, and a very expensive truck tied up at an also expensive recharging station for hours every day. And those recharging nodes must be available at just the right time & place to match EV operating requirements. And there would be no more team driving, with one driver driving while the other one rests.

    Mandating EVs by a certain date will not work. As EVs become available that can provide better solutions to segments of the market, they will be adopted. No level of subsidies can force bad solutions on the market. Can you tell that I believe the government should back off and let technological development and the market work?

    • The points you’re making about long haul being mostly about air resistance is true.

      However, long haul ICE trucks with have two major disadvantages compared to EV trucks:

      1. ICE engine must be tuned for max torque needed during the lifetime of the truck (e.g. accelerating in steeo uphill with max load) but you only need small fraction of the max power to maintain long haul average speed.

      2. Even the theoretical max efficiency of diesel internal combustion engine (ICE) is between 30–40%. You’re losing 60–70% of all energy to exhaust and radiator heat. EVs already have well to wheel efficiency around 80–90% and it seems possible to get to 90–95% in theory.

      That said, if you believe that the US way of running big long haul trucks 75 mph is something that should be done in the future, too, then current battery tech isn’t enough yet.

      Here in Europe long haul trucks are limited to 50 mph to reduce emissions. With those speeds, the energy needed for air resistance is only 44% of the air resistance at 75 mph!

      • Replying to your point 2:

        EVs do not have “well to wheel” efficiencies anywhere near 80% to 90%. Battery to wheel, perhaps, when battery charging, electrical, and mechanical losses are considered. Battery losses alone can be 10% or more, especially in the winter.

        Thermodynamic losses in converting chemical energy (fuel) to mechanical energy are about 60%. For IC engines, this loss occurs in the truck, so the net conversion efficiency of the truck “fuel to wheels” is 30 to 35%. For EVs, this thermodynamic loss occurs upstream, in the power station. So, the amount of hydrocarbon heat input to the power plant is roughly the same as for the ICE truck to achieve the same amount of power to the wheels. And CO2 emissions are roughly the same, too. This is true for the 75% to 80% of electric power generated by fossil fuels.

        So, until we deploy the technologies necessary to reliably generate the carbon-free electric power necessary to run our economy (present loads, plus EVs, and new loads from eliminating natural gas for heating) the use of EVs will not appreciably reduce CO2 output. It simply moves it to a different location. Solar and wind are far too unreliable to power a modern economy. And nothing else is even being discussed seriously, except fission, which would take several generations to deploy even if it worked. That leaves coal and natural gas, and lots of CO2.

  6. Last mile delivery to homes won’t be done by semis. It would be done using a delivery truck built on a Cybertruck chassis, like what Rivian is doing. Semis would be excellent and moving goods from warehouses to stores in urban areas where stop and go traffic and stoplights are brutal for diesel semis. (E.g. taking goods from a central warehouse to the retail store)

    That being said there is definitely a market for EV delivery trucks that work in urban/suburban areas.

    • Probably an even larger market considering how much people shop online these days and get stuff delivered right to their door.

      Not just warehouse companies like Amazon, but even grocery shopping from supermarkets.

      I think eventually we will also see fresh/hot food delivery services get more serious than inefficiently stacking 1-3 loads a bike and convert to 10+ loads in a van for the busier times of day.

      That being said e-bikes do change that equation somewhat by making longer distance and uphill deliveries for small food outlets more viable.

  7. The energy per liter or kilogram of any currently available battery is minute compared to the energy per liter or kilogram of any hydrocarbon fuel.
    I can see this not being a problem for short distances, but what are the EV makers doing to compensate for that disadvantage for longer distances?
    I think a long blog post on that would be needed to answer the question.

    • I feel like this is what happens with EV discussions. You have a group that thinks IC is dead man walking and have over the top analysis of perfect EVs and you have another group that thinks EVs are hopelessly under powered and hide exaggerated ecological costs. It’s really hard to find even handed analyses. You are right that battery energy per kilogram is less than hydrocarbons. But it is by no means “minute.” And electric motors make much more efficient use of battery energy. And you can have regenerative breaking. Gas cars refuel faster and we already have the infrastructure. EV batteries use expensive environmentally unfriendly materials and are hard to recycle. But that’s not necessarily a permanent state of affairs. EVs require less maintenance. Gas is much more abundant than peak oil people claimed. Electricity for EVs comes from hydrocarbon generators. Again, not necessarily permanent. Tesla has the big advantage (for us) that if its products aren’t useful and efficient they will fail in the market. There have been some big boondoggles in the EV industry. How much EVs should be subsided, especially now that they are established is debatable. I will admit I’ve been moving to the IC has limited time camp, so you know where I stand.

      • You disagreed with me calling battery energy density ‘minute’ compared to diesel fuel.

        From 2 web pages google gave on searching ‘energy density’.
        Diesel fuel 45.3 MJ/kg
        Lithium Battery 0.5 MJ/kg
        Diesel fuel 45.6 MJ/kg
        Lithium ion battery 0.35->0.875 MJ/kg

        Dividing the highest figure for Lithium ion battery by the lower figure for diesel fuel I get the battery being just under 2% the energy density of diesel.
        Multiply by somewhere between 2 to 4 to allow for the modest efficiency of any heat engine. You still need over 10 x the mass of battery

        OTOH the *possible* energy density of lithium air batteries is close to the energy density of hydrocarbon fuel & with the higher effiency almost certain for any practical battery would definitely outperform a heat engine burning hydrocarbons. Practical metal-air batteries would definitely displace fossil fuels for transportation.

          • The gas tank has relatively little mass compared to its storage capacity. The use of EV “skateboard” platforms is the most efficient and lowest-CoG approach to building the structure, but it doesn’t change the fact that EVs are much heavier than equivalent sized ICE cars of similar range. That’s just the physics of the energy storage density of current battery technologies versus a tank of dead dinosaur juice.

            • I know that EV batteries are heavier but just calculating gasoline or diesel weight is not something upon which to base conclusions about market success. A Prius could beat the F150 on fuel efficiency but the F150 makes a lot more revenue.

      • Electricity supply is the limiting factor. Electric cars are still a niche product for wealthy consumers. If they catch on with the general public, generating capacity is going to be a huge problem it’ll take at least a decade to fix. Politically, a law banning the import of items with children or slaves in the supply chain would kill them off for at least a generation, though given the popularity of shoes and iPhones, manufacturers are pretty safe on that one.

    • Simply put they need to build the battery into the structure of the truck chassis itself, preferably also using wheelbase motors as axles just take up more space better utilised by moar battery.

      Even then if Sweden’s pilot program for overhead power lines on a truck lane has favorable results it could really be a kick in the nuts to Tesla’s ambition as it would negate any battery advantage.

      Not that I believe this advantage will remain in the long term, there are too many competing parties involved for Tesla to remain dominant for long without buying literally every possible competing battery producer, and some are already in the clutches of other auto makers so that isn’t even possible.

    • The tesla semi can get a 70% recharge in 30 minutes.or the 500 miles version of the tesla semi that 30 minute charge would give an additional 350 miles. A isngle driver in a semi is required to take at least 2 breaks and mandatory sleep time. Plugged in for full hour would fully charge the semi. it the driver plugs in whenever he takes a break and takes 2 breaks he will gain an additional 700miles of range.Or he could take a 1 hour lunch break and get a full 500 mile recharge. If plugged in when sleeping it will have 500 miles of range in the morning The reset and sleep requirements plus speed limits make it hard for a driver to exceed 900 miles in a day.

      Most of the electric semi sails for the next few years will be to companies that travel fixed routs or don’t typically drive beyond the rand of the batter. During that time tussle will build out a network of DC fast chargers for the semi and cyber trucks. When that network nears completion long companies doing long haul will start to use use electric semis

      • You should check out truckers’ commentary on YouTube regarding what it would take to charge the hundreds of trucks that come to a large truck stop for the night vs. each truck taking 10 or 15 minutes to fill with diesel. You’d need hundreds of chargers filling the lot, since trucks can’t queue up at an island and fuel. Someone might do it, but the costs would be tremendous. You are also forcing truckers to go to a truck stop. Hint: truck stops will start to impose all sorts of fees, vs. a trucker who tanks up and goes and parks somewhere else to sleep for the night.

        • You view the making giant new truckstops as something that can’t be done. If the economic incentive to get the equivalent of 28 mpg instead of 7 mpg. 28 eMPG, then large money will be spent and big things will be built. Costco’s are big and cost a lot to make but saving money means people are willing to shop there and the business is very profitable. If the economics work then big change happens.

          • On this point, I will debate you. One of the biggest issues right now in long haul trucking is parking. As in there isn’t nearly enough of it. Go to any truck stop at around 4pm and wait for a few hours. By 7pm, the lot is full. And then you will see the late guys scrambling to find a spot before their clocks run out. Now, not a lot of CURRENT truck stop places are adding tons of new spots to keep up with this demand, and I don’t believe Love’s, T/A, etc care about the I/C vs EV discussion to make that decision. Now if you are saying they are going to make big bucks by charging high fees for parking and charging…then you are onto something.

          • Could it be done? Sure. But that’s dependent on whether it is profitable for Love, T/A, etc. One of the biggest problems in long haul now is parking. 80% of long hauls are on the same schedule. Meaning you make a pickup during the morning/day, drive as long as you can and bunk for the night. Go find a truck stop, sit at 4pm and wait. Around 7 pm, the lot will be full. And then you have the drivers circling for a spot before their clock runs out. And those who are not lucky are usually sitting on an on-ramp. Or they found a rest stop. Now, you would think that all of those truck stops would build more spots in their lots(which actually, they can’t because most stops are almost zoned to their largest size) but since most parking is free…not going to happen. Now if you want to say that those companies can charge a fee for parking and charging…then you would be onto something.

            • Current truck stops may not become the new electric truck stops. Depends upon the best and easiest electrical grid hookups with enough power. Not difficult to pave a large area that has road access.

              • While in a perfect world, that may be the case, but we don’t have that. If the perfect spot is 20 miles off the interstate, would someone build it? Probably not. Not in terms of long haul. Further, NIMBY is going to be your next issue

      • The key imho is to get the proles to abandon hydrocarbons so they have to rely on electricity, and then tell them there’s not enough for them to recharge their batteries. The goal is of course to get the proles to do without and, ultimately, fade away.

        • They want us to believe it’s about replacing our ICE vehicles with electric vehicles, when in fact it’s about us not having vehicles.

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