Elon Musk’s new Master Plan calls for an expansion of its vehicles into other categories, including buses and heavy-duty trucks, both of which will unveil in about a year. Undoubtedly, carbon emissions worldwide would fall precipitously if the general automobile consumer transitioned to a tailpipe-free electric Tesla, but that’s not what Elon Musk is after. His goal is a full-frontal assault on carbon emissions of all kinds including a Tesla Semi. His objective is for nothing less than a world that no longer uses fossil fuels to power its transportation system, even on a commercial scale.
Looking back at the Volkswagen diesel scandal and why it was significant, beyond morality, diesel engines especially heavy-duty diesel trucks spew emissions on another level. To make the problem worse, passenger cars normally have a useful life of around 200,000 miles. Diesel-powered tractors can be on the road for a decade or more, spewing out toxins for millions of miles before they are replaced. The pollution control systems on older trucks are rudimentary at best.
In Southern California, the pollution from drayage trucks that haul shipping containers from ports to inland distribution centers is so bad, it has sparked a number of plans to replace them with electric versions. One solution proposed by Siemens calls for equipping trucks with pantographs so they can draw electricity from overhead wires along their routes.
Former Tesla executive Ian Wright sold his stock in Tesla Motors when Elon Musk came on board. Wright wanted to attack the challenges of truck pollution rather than build some silly sports car. He has since created his own company called Wrightspeed that focuses on cleaning up the emissions from heavy-duty garbage trucks. He has invented a new form of a hybrid powertrain that uses a small gas turbine to recharge the batteries. The turbine is so clean, it doesn’t even need a catalytic converter to meet California’s stringent emissions rules.