“This will blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension”, Elon Musk tweeted ahead of the launch of Tesla’s electric heavy-duty truck.
The much-anticipated launch of the Semi didn’t fall short of expectations. Its key statistics look promising: it has a range of up to 800 km, it can drive up a 5% gradient at a speed of 105 kph, while its acceleration allows it to go from 0 to 97 kph in just 20 seconds with a load of 36,000 kg.
Tesla also promised that a new megacharger would allow the truck a range of about 645 km (400 miles) after charging for just 30 minutes.
But a few weeks later, a respected group of Oxford university professors cast significant doubts over the viability of the Semi – all due to the amount of electricity needed for that megacharger to work.
The chief executive of Aurora Energy Research, John Feddersen, says the power required for the megacharger to fill a truck battery in just 30 minutes would be 1,600 kilowatts, according to the Financial Times.
That is the equivalent of providing power for 3,000 to 4,000 “average” houses, he said.
Such a fast and significant demand would put the grid under immense strain, and is not possible within the limitations of current technologies, he argued.
Feddersen used the Tesla example to highlight the debate around how grid infrastructure will need to be adapted to meet demand for electric vehicles. “Fully electrified road transport will need a large amount of new infrastructure,” he told the Financial Times.
Tesla has not commented on the findings of Aurora Energy, but it is well aware of the need for bigger and better batteries to meet the projected expansion of the electric car market.
It already has a network of “superchargers” for its electric cars, which are partially powered by renewables.
The company is also experimenting with storage batteries to ease demands on the grid.
It recently helped Australia with its grid problems by building the world’s largest lithium ion battery, scaling up its technology for powering electric cars.
And it has built a giant battery factory in the Nevada desert known as the Gigafactory, where it plans to produce more batteries than the rest of the industry combined.
But if the Semi truck is to become a reality by 2019 as hoped, Tesla will almost certainly need to further develop its megabatteries as well as finding ways of managing the demand on the grid.