Earlier this month, Tesla pulled it off and put its long-awaited Semi on the road. As launch-customer PepsiCo gets its first Semis, questions remain about the tractor’s price, weight, batteries, and exact power figures. But one thing has caught my eye, and it has to do with the Semi’s windows: They work like an old Dodge Caravan’s rear windows, which is bound to make some situations an unnecessary pain. But I have a simple solution!
The Semi is one of Tesla’s most significant product releases in a while. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been making huge promises about the truck—promises that, delivered upon, would put Tesla in a whole new market and ahead of its competition there. I mean, an electric semi-tractor that could carry a full load 500 miles is a huge deal. It seems that Tesla really did drive a loaded one 500 miles, but we still await crucial details about how much the tractor itself weighs. We’re even still waiting for a full video of that drive.
Still, I’m finding myself almost as fascinated with the Semi as I was when I saw a Roadster for the first time.
Over the weekend, I realized that something sneaked by my commercial vehicle-loving radar. David, Jason, and I got to see a Semi in person and we got all over the thing with our cameras. I should have noticed it then, but I didn’t. Then European truck driver Tomasz Oryński started a discussion on Twitter about the problems that he sees with the Tesla Semi.
I am watching a movie clips about @elonmusk's Tesla Semi – remember, the truck that was to revolutionize the transport industry when it entered the market 4 years ago ????
And I am going to tell you'all why it is a completely stupid vehicle. And I won't even want to talk about (1)
— Tomasz Oryński (@TOrynski) December 8, 2022
He made some interesting points, like how the day cab (a semi cab without sleeping quarters) is so huge, yet has nothing in it. Or how having the door behind the driver and creating a corridor adds extra unnecessary steps (literally). Here’s what that corridor looks like from the Tesla Semi delivery event:
When this Tweet made it over to our friends at Opposite Lock, something else was revealed: the Semi’s windows only pop out; they apparently do not fully open. This could make it hard for truckers to pay tolls or pass papers in and out of the vehicle—something they understandably do very often.
At first, I couldn’t believe it. Then I looked at the pictures that I took of the Semi prototype that Tesla parked at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. Sure enough, flanking the driver are pop-out vent windows.
Still not believing what my eyes saw and what my camera took a picture of, I checked Tesla’s promotional video from the event. Yep, the pop-out windows are there, too. And they were there in the timelapse of the Semi that drove 500 miles. Here’s what the windows look like open on a prototype:
Why This Is A Big Deal
It should be noted that Tesla has updated the cab’s design between the prototype stage and production. The trucks featured in Tesla’s promotional videos from the Nevada event are of the updated design, which appears to feature larger windows plus extra dummy-side windows. However, in interior shots, you can still see the arm for the pop-out windows. You can see the window arm to the very right of the below image:
As Oryński pointed out in his thread, being able to reach out of a window is a big deal because truckers often need to communicate with people outside of their rig. It could also mean dealing with authorities or just the simple act of paying a toll. (Granted, many truckers use electronic toll pass systems these days, as do tons of drivers, but let’s face it—sometimes you need to get your window down for a lot of things.)
You may also want to open your window to clean something off of your side mirror or heck, just get some fresh air blowing into the cab.
But someone driving a Tesla Semi can’t easily do those actions. The windows pop open into a sizable slit, just like a minivan. The central driving position seems to make it so that you’d have to get out of your seat to pass something through the window, anyway. So, realistically, the driver of a Tesla Semi will be getting out of their rigs to conduct business that other truckers can do in their cabs.
Reading “takes” on the Tesla Semi by another trucker, it seems that not having a true opening window is a letdown. I’ve gone through pages of different semi-tractor manufacturers, and so far as I can tell, Tesla is the only one with a production truck with windows that open like a vent. It’s not the worst problem a vehicle could have, but an annoying one that I think could have been largely avoided.
A Potential Solution
This is something that I have personal experience with, albeit with buses. In both my old school bus and my current Nova Bus RTS, I’ve had to do things that required an open window. I’ve also had conversations through my open windows. You might think that the advent of electronic tolling would have eliminated this problem, but when I’m in line to pay toll, I’m often behind multiple semis.
At this time, we don’t know why Tesla went with its pop-out windows. Perhaps the shape of the Semi makes a rolling window difficult. Maybe it had to do with cost savings. Whatever the reason, General Motors had a solution to this problem decades ago. Let’s look at my RTS.
It, like the Tesla Semi, has ginormous windows. And from me digging around my bus, I know that there’s nowhere for that slightly curved window to roll down into. GM’s solution to having an opening window was to have a secondary window that slides open. This window is a tiny opening, but it is more than enough for you to reach your hand out to do whatever you need to do.
It’s certainly not ideal, as it’s still a small portal. You sort of have to bend over to talk through the window. However, in my experience, most of the time I don’t even have to take off my seatbelt. And even though this window is tiny, it’s still large enough to blow in fresh air during a drive! And Unlike my RTS, the Tesla Semi’s windows don’t have a chunk of bodywork limiting how far the window could open so that the Tesla could have a bigger portal.
But that’s just my idea. I’m sure there are more configurations that Tesla could have chosen. Here’s where we have a question for you, dear readers. As we wait for more information on the Tesla Semi, we want to know if it’s anywhere as revolutionary as it’s being pitched as. Is having that huge day cab actually useful? Is sitting in the middle of a semi-tractor beneficial?
We don’t drive semis for a living, but some of you might. If you’re in the trucking industry and have comments about the Semi, we’d love to read them at email@example.com.
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