Hype for the Tesla Semi went into overdrive after the fully electric heavy duty truck was unveiled in California, last month.
Currently, at least 140 Semi trucks have been pre-ordered by almost 15 companies, so let’s take a look at what exactly is, and isn’t, so appealing.
Despite facing several problems, including large quarterly losses and delivery backlogs, the Tesla behemoth has still managed to catch the attention of at least some of the trucking industry. The Semi is expected to enter production in 2019 and will offer users 500 miles of range (at maximum weight).
Four independent motors, mounted to the semi’s rear axles, will allow for average speeds of 65 mph, while CEO Elon Musk has promised a <2kWh/mile energy consumption, equalling a potential fuel saving of over US$200,000 for users.
However, some companies are not entirely convinced over various factors surrounding the EV. The main issue revolves around the likelihood of the Semi actually being ready for 2019 release. The specs are impressive and will require a great deal of production costs for a company under very tight margins. Similarly, charging necessities will need to be widespread and effective; a promised “Megacharger” network, allowing refuelling in 30 minutes, will be a expense to install.
Chief Executive of YRC Worldwide, James Welch, told the Wall Street Journal, “we’re going to sit on the sidelines and watch that develop…. Recharging time has to be quick because you’re paying a driver whether he or she is running or sitting”.
Furthermore, high costs are causing many to baulk at the Tesla Semi. The UK’s Road Haulage Association is concerned that Tesla are throwing around impressive performance details without considering the huge unit price increase that most hauliers will not be able to afford.
However, that has not stopped several big-name businesses registering for pre-orders. The latest, Budweiser manufacturer Anheuser-Busch, has put its name down for 40 trucks – at US$200,000 each – and is hoping that the move will help it reduce its carbon footprint by 30%.
Walmart has announced that it has preordered 15 Semis to use as a test pilot across America and Canada, stating that it believes it “can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions.” Other food service companies on board include Meijer and Loblaw.
Logistics providers are likely to make up the bulk of Tesla’s customers and currently include DHL, J.B Hunt, JK Moving, Fortigo Freight Services, and Flexport.com.
Tesla Semi cockpit – central dashboard and panoramic displays Source: Tesla
There has been some interest from European businesses, such as Fercam and Girteka Logistics, but there has certainly been less of a bite from the UK market – probably because of high running costs, prohibitive initial outlay, and a lack of suitable charging points.
Given Musk’s propensity for setting ambitious deadlines and failing to meet them means 2019 may end up being a very optimistic deadline for full production. It is also an equally ambitious timeline to lay down the supporting “Megacharger” infrastructure that will make these trucks more appealing to time-conscious fleet managers, at the same time as fulfilling a mammoth order book for the Model 3.
Yet Tesla is forever confounding expectations, and the Semi is no different. As with its other models, the arrival of the truck – even a delayed one – will signal another seismic shift in the electric transportation industry.[UPDATE 12/12: Today it was reported that PepsiCo has has placed the largest reservation of Semis yet, with 100 units apparently on order, taking Tesla’s total order book to around 267 units, according to Reuters.]