Tesla Semi: Delivering the disruptive electric truck

Tesla has introduced the first Tesla Semi electric trucks to customers and released details of the production version of the vehicle – fulfilling a five-year promise.

Today, the company held a Tesla Semi Delivery Event in Nevada.

As expected, Tesla delivered its first electric trucks to longtime reservation holder Pepsico and held a presentation to reveal more details about the production version of the Tesla Semi.

There were no big surprises during the presentation.

Tesla made good on the initial promises it made when it first unveiled prototypes of the Tesla Semi in 2017.

Despite the lack of major changes, the electric truck is still a big deal as it has the potential to change the trucking industry for the better by eliminating emissions and significantly reducing costs.

The company began by explaining why it is moving from consumer electric cars to electric Class 8 trucks. It’s pretty simple: Although semi-trucks only make up about 1% of cars in the US, they account for about 20% of emissions:

Clearly, battery electric Class 8 trucks have the potential to significantly reduce these numbers.

But to capture the market, they need to be just as capable, if not more, than diesel semi-trucks, and Tesla is ambitious about delivering that.

In terms of the technology that powers the truck, things have changed since the original prototypes, but not in any major way.

Tesla now uses the same three-motor drivetrain as the Model S and Model X Plaid.

Tesla Semi Program Manager Dan Priestley explained that Tesla uses one of the engines for cruising speed, which is focused on the highest efficiency on highways, and the other two engines are used for torque when accelerating to create an unprecedented smooth driving experience. Formerly a class 8 truck.

To prove its capacity, Tesla shared a very impressive video of its 82,000-pound Tesla Semi passing a diesel truck on a 6% grade on the Donner Pass like nothing happened:

Well, it’s powerful, but can it travel long distances? Yes, it can be. Tesla promised a 500-mile range on a full charge five years ago, and it delivered.

Tesla shared data on a 500-mile trip with the tractor at a total load of just 82,000 pounds. It started with a 97% charge in the Bay Area and ended up with a still 4% charge in San Diego:

Tesla reiterated that it can achieve efficiencies of less than 2 kWh per mile, meaning trucking companies could save up to $70,000 a year in fuel, depending on the price of electricity.

Once the battery pack is depleted after 500 miles or more, you can expect incredibly fast charging thanks to the new 1 megawatt charging technology developed by Tesla. The automaker has also said it will arrive at the Cybertruck.

I felt like I was back with the event in 2012, because Elon Musk was listing some of the main advantages of electric vehicles that people coming from internal combustion engines might not necessarily be familiar with, like truck drivers who don’t have the option to go yet electric.

Things like regenerative braking and millisecond response time of electric motors, resulting in greater traction control, can significantly improve safety in trucks.

Tesla also introduced a number of quality-of-life features for Tesla Semi drivers, such as an automatic hitch dump for easy hitching, a stand-up cab, and an easy light inspection for inspections.

Tesla Semi interior

There is no doubt that the interior of the car is cool and quite different compared to most diesel trucks on the market today.

Now, these machines are in the hands of customers for the first time, starting with Pepsico/Frito Lay.

Electrek’s Take

There were no surprises at the event except that the Cybertruck has the same charging technology, but that’s not really the case with the Tesla Semi.

It felt like it was more about making good on promises made five years ago, and they’re doing it mostly to their credit.

There are two key points that Tesla didn’t discuss that I think are important and we should be aware of: price and weight.

Tesla did not update the price, which was originally $200,000. I have a feeling that may change in five years, but no word on that from Tesla.

Another thing is the weight of the actual tractor, since the weight of the tractor dictates the weight of the load and is the job of hauling. How much a truck can carry means how much money a trip can make to a certain extent.

Class 8 trucks have a gross limit (truck plus loaded trailer) of 80,000 pounds and a tractor weighs between 12,000 and 25,000 pounds, depending on the model. The difference is what it can carry.

At the time of the event, Tesla listed a curb weight of just 82,000 pounds (electric trucks are allowed an additional 2,000 lb.), but never confirmed the weight or payload capacity of the Tesla Semi. It would be important to have the information.

Aside from the absence of these two important pieces of information, I feel that the event was impressive and that Tesla may have a new, very disruptive product on its hands.

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