Tesla, the leading maker of passenger electric vehicles, is now in the commercial truck business thanks to its introduced all-electric 18-wheeler. Last night, the Tesla Semi rolled out at an event held at the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. The Semi EV arrives three years late with the COVID-19 pandemic and global parts shortage blamed for the delay.
2017 Semi Introduction
Introduced in concept form in 2017, production-ready copies of the Tesla Semi are now heading to customers, including PepsiCo owner of the Frito-Lay brand. Indeed, PepsiCo officials were on hand for the event that featured four examples of the Semi. Two came wrapped in Pepsi and Frito Lay logos.
CEO Elon Musk led the event, sharing remarks about reducing carbon emissions for the shipment of goods across the world. Even so, Musk emphasized the design aspects of the Semi, exclaiming that “it looks sick,” as he touted the vehicle. Musk noted the futuristic look of the Semi EV and also called it “a beast.”
The Tesla Semi EV event, however, was long on praise, but short on important details including price, specifications, and output numbers.
The initial reports pegged the Semi’s price at $150,000 for the 300-mile-range truck and $180,000 for the 500-mile-range version. But those were 2017 price estimates, long before inflation and the rising cost of materials weighed in.
PepsiCo ordered 100 examples in 2017 with FEDEX and Walmart placing much smaller initial orders. Tesla expects to produce a small number of the Semi this year with Musk hinting at 50,000 annual units by 2024.
Much of the information we have about the Tesla Semi comes from the company and not through independent sources. That said, we know the Semi has only one seat and lacks a sleeping compartment. Right there, truckers who usually ride with a partner and/or rely on their vehicles for their sleeping quarters have none.
Tesla says that it deployed a Semi on a 500-mile trip with 81,000 pounds of Frito-Lay product. The company claims success and points to this rig’s battery system and its fast-charging system as making it a viable product. The Semi uses existing Tesla electric motors and is capable of charging at 1 megawatt. The charging cable features liquid-cooling technology that works with an updated version of the company’s supercharger. Musk claims the same arrangement is set for the Tesla Cybertruck, an all-electric pickup truck scheduled to appear in 2023.
The one-seat arrangement is novel as Tesla can market the truck across all markets without repositioning the steering wheel. Screens flank the steering wheel with additional driver controls on the right side.
We’re not yet able to verify much about the Tesla Semi from a performance standpoint. The company claims that the Semi is three times more powerful than an equivalent diesel truck. To that end, a short clip posted to Twitter (owned by Elon Musk), reveals a Semi climbing the Donner Pass at a 6-percent incline, overtaking a diesel-powered rig with ease.
Tesla says that the 18-wheeler utilizes three electric motors, with one operating at highway speeds and the other two kept in reserve for acceleration.
With not enough information to process, the jury is out regarding the Tesla Semi. We’ve researched the market, finding that long-haul truckers may have the most difficulty based on the charging network and range. Moreover, the demand that such trucks will have on the infrastructure may make it difficult to supply what’s needed. Once deployed, the Tesla Semi along with more available data, we’ll be better position to deliver an informed opinion.
Sriram, A. (2022, December 2). Musk delivers first Tesla truck, but no update on output, pricing. Reuters.
Fuller, C. (2022, December 2). Why the Tesla Semi isn’t yet ready for commercial prime time. FreightWaves.
Sierzchula, W. (2022, December 1). Electrifying US long haul trucks will require 504 TWh a year. But that won’t be the hardest part. Utility Dive.
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YouTube video courtesy of Tesla.