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Tesla driverless semi-truck may be coming soon, but some challenge the future of EVs

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk hinted about a new electric semi-truck to be unveiled next month and a few details have leaked out early.

Reuters reported Tesla’s electric cargo-hauler would have semi-autonomous abilities, allowing a driverless convoy of trucks on highways. The company has discussed testing prototypes with Nevada government officials.

Musk suggested the company would build electric semi-trucks and buses in the second part of Tesla’s master plan.

“Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year,” Musk wrote last year. “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”

Adding autonomous features would take a step toward eliminating long-haul truck drivers. It also expands Tesla’s electric fleet.

Tesla handed over 30 Model 3 sedans to employees and investors last month, opening the doors for its first mass-market car and driving up company shares.

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But EV skepticism gathered in Michigan at a conference presented by the Center for Automotive Research. As quoted by Design News, auto policy experts and engineers surveyed felt the industry was nowhere near a tipping point for EVs.

“We asked the panelists, ‘Is the Model 3 proof that we’ve turned a corner?’ And their response was basically, ‘If you want to spend a lot of money building a car, not making a profit on the car, and then essentially giving it away, then the answer is, yes, we’re there,’” said Center for Automotive Research program director Brett Smith.

That hasn’t prevented established automakers from pushing ahead with electric cars. The Chevy Bolt, a small sedan with 235 mile range on a single charge, hit the market last fall.

Honda last week delivered its first all-electric Clarity, with a range of about 90 miles on a single charge, to the Bay Area.

Still, EVs make up about 1 percent of all U.S. auto sales.

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Photo: An exterior view of Tesla’s Model S beta prototype. Photographed on Nov. 10, 2011 at Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto. (Dai Sugano/Mercury News)

Tags: electric vehicles, elon musk, Model 3, tesla

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