Tesla has warned its soon-to-be released Tesla Semi electric trucks will be too wide for Australian roads unless current rules are changed.
Under existing regulations, trucks are only allowed to use Australian roads if they are 2.5 metres wide or less. Tesla says its Semi trucks are between 30 and 50 millimetres wider than that, although they confirm to rules in the United States, where the limit is 2.6m, and in the European Union, where it is 2.55 metres.
In a submission to the National Transport Commission’s Heavy Vehicle National Law Review, Tesla urged the government to change the rule, saying the Australian market’s small size would likely mean Tesla would not make the adjustments necessary to sell its trucks here.
“The Commission will be aware that given Australia’s small size in comparison to global markets, inconsistencies like this between Australian regulations and larger markets will delay or preclude vehicles coming to local markets,” the submission says.
“Currently, Australia will likely miss out on the first generation of electric heavy vehicles such as the Tesla Semi because of this.”
The mismatch between Australian and overseas rules has long been a bugbear of many in the industry. In September 2019, Austroads, the peak body representing Australia’s various state and federal level transport agencies, completed a study in which it recommended increasing the limit by 50mm to 2.55 metres.
The study, which surveyed a wide range of stakeholders, found majority support for the change. The biggest objections came from local truck manufacturers who were afraid the rule would hurt their business. There were also concerns about the saftey implications.
Austroads said these concerns could be “mitigated by mandating driver training and specific safety technologies (such as blind spot information systems and side under-run protection) and by supporting domestic manufacturing (transitional arrangements and subsidies to adapt processes)”.
But despite this strong backing for the change, nothing has happened since that report was released 18 months ago.
The Australian Trucking Association backs a change to the rules, saying keeping the current regime in place would only hold up the arrival of zero emissions trucks.
An ATA spokesperson said: “Truck models developed overseas, including both electric and hydrogen models, will need to be redesigned for the Australian market to meet our dimension rules. This will slow the introduction of zero emission road transport technologies.
“To better enable zero emission trucks and newer less emission intensive trucks onto Australian roads, the Australian Trucking Association is calling for heavy vehicle dimension rules and believe Australian truck width should be amended to 2.6 metres, This would enable the introduction of the latest zero emission trucks on an earlier timeline.”
The National Transport Commission is looking at this issue in its Heavy Vehicle National Law Review, to which Tesla made its submission. In a paper published last year the NTC acknowledged Australian rules had “not kept pace with current international standards”. The NTC will present its finalised policy options to the federal government in May.
Tesla’s says it will deliver its first batch of mass Semi trucks this year, nearly four years after it unveiled the first prototype in November 2017.
The all-electric trucks have a range of between 300 to 500 miles (483 to 804 kilometres) and energy consumption of less than 2 kWh per mile. The cheapest version costs $US150,000 ($194,000), and the more expensive costs $US180,000 ($233,000).
James Fernyhough is a reporter at RenewEconomy and The Driven. He has worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in all things related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.