Five years after their first reveal, the first Tesla Semi trucks were delivered to customers at an event at the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada on Thursday.
The trucks, which were first unveiled in concept form in 2017, were supposed to go into production in 2019 but were delayed for a variety of reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a global parts shortage. Representatives from PepsiCo, which reserved 100 Semis shortly after its reveal, were on hand to receive the first batch of trucks.
Tesla says the Semi is powered by four independent motors on the rear axles, can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 20 seconds and has a battery range of up to 500 miles. Prices can start at $150,000, and there have been a number of orders from companies like Walmart and FedEx in the tens range.
Standing on a stage flanked by four Tesla Semis, two of which were wrapped in Pepsi and Frito Lay logos, Musk spoke about the need to reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced by shipping goods across the planet. But after pretending to champion the mission of fighting climate change, he quickly turned to his distinct brand of showmanship.
“It looks sick,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said onstage at the event. “You want to drive this. I mean, this thing seems to be from the future. Musk later called the Semi a “beast.”
“It’s a sea change in technology in many ways,” Musk said.
During the weekend, Musk revealed that one of Tesla’s battery-powered Class 8 tractor-trailers had traveled 500 miles fully loaded with 81,000 pounds of cargo. The trip took place from Tesla’s factory in Fremont, Calif., to San Diego at the southern tip of the state. At the event, Musk clarified that the trip was accomplished without needing to recharge the battery.
Tesla is positioning the Semi as the future of trucking. But while the company struggles to start production, the rest of the trucking industry has already embraced electric vehicles. Major OEMs like Daimler, Volvo, Peterbilt and BYD have been working on their own electric long-haulers. The Tesla Semis delivered today were the final piece of a $30.8 million project partially funded by the California Air Resource Board, according to Bloomberg. Even Nikola Motors, which has battled allegations of fraud and executive turnover, delivered a hydrogen truck before Tesla.
Still, battery-powered electric vehicles will face considerable challenges, from weight restrictions to the availability of convenient charging stations, before they can be widely adopted. Truck stops, for example, are largely unprepared to handle the power needs of electric tractor-trailers and their gigantic batteries.
Two years ago, Bill Gates said that “even with big breakthroughs in battery technology,” electric vehicles just aren’t ready to tackle long-haul trucking. “Electricity works when you need to travel short distances, but we need a different solution for heavy-duty, long-haul vehicles,” Gates wrote. (Musk’s response to Gates was post raw memes on Twitter, of course.)
Musk touched on charging during the event, revealing that Tesla has developed a new liquid-cooled charging connector capable of delivering 1 megawatt of direct current. “It will also be used for Cybertruck,” Musk added to cheers from the audience. (The equally delayed Cybertruck is expected to go into production in the second half of 2023.) He also spoke about the need to decouple Tesla’s superchargers from the grid to ensure they can continue to deliver power. during an outage.
The trucks are a key part of Musk’s “Master Plan Part Two,” in which he pledged to expand the company’s vehicle lineup to “cover major forms of ground transportation,” including a semi-truck trailer.
During the event, Musk spoke about Tesla’s current product lineup, which has been criticized as outdated compared to other automakers that frequently release updated versions of previous models. In front of an image of Tesla’s lineup of vehicles, including the upcoming Cybertruck and a wrapped vehicle labeled “robotaxi”, Musk said Tesla was not like other automakers.
“So what is our real mission? Our current mission is to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy,” Musk said. “That’s why we make this wide range of cars that don’t really make sense from a brand perspective.”
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