(TNS) — HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Tesla CEO Elon Musk Thursday night sprung a surprise on the world, using the launch of a new electric semi-truck to announce what he said will be the world’s fastest production car, a new Tesla Roadster.
“I won’t say what the actual speed is, but it’s above 250 mph,” Musk said. “The point of this is to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars.”
Musk showed off a prototype of the new vehicle, a convertible he said will go from zero to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds and from zero to 100 mph in 4.2 seconds, and cover a quarter mile in 8.9 seconds.
The battery pack will allow the three-motor, four-seat car to travel 620 miles on one charge, enough to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back, Musk said. That will make the vehicle the first production electric car to cover that distance on a single charge, he said.
The Roadster, a new edition of the Palo Alto electric car maker’s first vehicle, will be available in 2020, Musk said. He boasted of roomy luggage storage, but warned that “you can’t put giant people in the rear seat.”
Tesla had kept quiet about the Roadster, with Musk reappearing after announcing the new electric semi-truck.
Musk touted the sleek, slope-nosed semi — guaranteed to go a million miles without breaking down — as better than diesel in every way.
With the launch, Tesla goes after a market for traditional and mostly diesel-powered trucks estimated to be approaching $34 billion a year.
“From day one, having a Tesla semi will beat a diesel truck on economics,” Musk said “It’s got a better drag coefficient than a supercar.”
If a driver has a medical emergency, the truck will automatically come to a gradual stop, and can call for help if the driver doesn’t respond to a prompt, Musk said.
The truck’s low center of gravity makes for good handling and rollover prevention, and its technology makes jackknifing impossible, Musk said.
The semi has automated-driving features including lane-keeping and automatic braking, and has four independent motors, he said.
“Even if you have only two of the motors active, it’ll still beat a diesel truck,” he said.
On one charge, Tesla’s truck can travel 500 miles at 60 mph, carrying the maximum allowed weight in the U.S., Musk said, adding that 80 percent of trucking routes are shorter than 250 miles.
Production begins in 2019, he said.
The prices of the truck and Roadster were not disclosed.
Market research firm Markets and Markets has estimated that the global market for traditional semi-trucks will hit $34.3 billion by 2020.
On Thursday, as Tesla was about to announce its electric semi, an advocacy group for diesel vehicle and engine manufacturers, diesel refiners and device makers issued a statement supporting the use of diesel-powered vehicles for trucking.
More than 4 million semi-trucks travel America’s roads, with more than 98 percent of them diesel powered, the Diesel Technology Forum said.
“Diesel is the most energy efficient internal combustion engine,” said Allen Schaeffer, the group’s executive director.
Tesla’s two-vehicle launch came as the company faces legal, financial and production issues. Its most recent quarterly earnings report beat analysts’ expectations with $2.98 billion in revenue, but revealed a $619 million loss and a three-month production delay for the entry-level Model 3 sedan. The company this week was hit with a third lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at the company.
Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs said the transport-truck market was “ripe for change, by electrification, self-driving and connected,” but she noted that Daimler beat Tesla to the punch with the announcement of its electric semi, the E-Fuso Vision One, in October.
The advantages held by standard semis could limit the scale of electric trucks’ operations, said Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book managing editor Michael Harley, who said Tesla had “incorrectly aimed its sights.”
“Diesel fuel is readily available and relatively efficient for heavy long-haul trucks that cruise open highways at a fixed speed,” Harley said.
“A more appropriate target for the electric vehicle maker would be the short-haul.”
©2017 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.