Tesla is reportedly working with major buyers of its upcoming electric Semi to build Megachargers at customers’ facilities
With a number of “long-range” EVs already on their way from a raft of big name automakers, the next sector ripe for electrification is trucking and freight.
In addition to recent movement from Toyota and Nikola, Tesla’s Semi is one of the front runners, capturing both corporate and public attention after its reveal in November. The US$200,000 Semi is expected to enter production in 2019 and will offer drivers 500 miles of range (at maximum weight).
Companies including PepsiCo, Walmart and Anheuser-Busch in the US, AKSO and Norway Post in Norway and even Bee’ah in the Middle East, have ordered models for their respective fleets, taking pre-orders to almost 400.
Alongside the truck itself, CEO Elon Musk promised a network of so-called “Megachargers” capable of refuelling those Semis in around 30 minutes – think a Supercharger, but bigger. Details of this infrastructure have been scarce, but Reuters reported last week that the company may be in talks with some of its customers to install these systems at their facilities.
According to the news service, Tesla is “collaborating with Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo and United Parcel Service Inc to build on-site charging terminals”. Not much else is known, but the companies have confirmed that Tesla would undertake the design and engineering. It is not clear whether Tesla would be paid to install these sites, or what the costs might be.
If this is the case, early adopters of the Semi would use the trucks on circular or shorter haul routes that would ensure they return to base to recharge – something Tesla has already suggested it would do on its own routes between Fremont and Nevada (a journey of around 250 miles).
Commenting on the partnership PepsiCo senior director of supply chain for Frito-Lay North America Mike O‘Connell told the news service: “We have a lot of in-house capability around energy and engineering… and certainly Tesla brings their expertise to the table on energy and charging.”
As with many of Musk’s innovations, some are sceptical that the Semi and its supporting infrastructure can be delivered within the promised timeline, especially as the company works flat-out to increase production of the flagship Model 3. Building bespoke Megachargers for its customers is one way that Tesla can limit negative feedback once its trucks do get on the road. It would also provide a stop-gap in the event that a roadside network remains limited, at least in the initial period.
Yet news of these partnerships is also encouraging, illustrating that both Tesla and its customers are keen to adopt electric technologies, and that they are happy to work together to ensure those solutions are viable. 2019 is still an ambitious deadline, but with a few well-placed charging systems in place the Semi could at least hit the highways with a running start.