By on November 17, 2017

Tesla Semi, Image: Tesla

Even though a next-generation Tesla Roadster unexpectedly rolled out of the back of one, it was still beyond weird to see the world’s automotive press converging on a California warehouse for the reveal of a big rig on Thursday night. But this is the scene we’ve grown accustomed to when something occurs in the Tesla universe.

The delayed reveal of the automaker’s electric semi truck, which surely has the Tesla fan base downloading C.W. McCall’s Convoy on Spotify this morning, is a proposition to trucking companies. Buy this Class 8 transport and save.

The Semi’s specifications are straightforward, even if the economics surrounding the vehicle are not. For a currently undisclosed price, Tesla plans to sell a day cab semi-trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating of 80,000 pounds, with power provided by four Model 3 motors.

Tesla Semi, Image: Tesla

Up front, a center-seated driver cocooned in carbon fiber panels monitors the vehicle (and the blind spots) through two display screens mounted to his or her left and right. An Enhanced Autopilot system would handle lane-keeping duties and apply the brakes if needed. From this perch, a driver can pilot the truck for 300 or 500 miles, depending on variant, then dump 400 miles into the massive under-cab battery pack via a 30-minute charge courtesy of the currently hypothetical Megacharger network.

According to the American Transportation Research Institute, 62 percent of U.S. pickups and deliveries fall within the longer-ranged model’s range.

Wowing the assembled journos and Teslarati, company CEO Elon Musk touted the truck’s scorching acceleration times — hardly top of mind for fleet operators, but this is Tesla, after all. The company claims a 0-60 mph time of five seconds for an unburdened rig, or 20 seconds hauling a trailer bursting at the seams. On a 5-percent grade, Tesla says the Semi can maintain 65 mph.

Tesla Semi

Speed is nice, but cost is key for any operator. And unpacking the Semi’s economics proved difficult. The operational cost figure tossed out by Tesla is $1.26 per mile, with rival diesel models pegged at $1.51. Chalk up the difference to reduced fuel costs (Tesla claims a $200,000 fuel savings over the life of the vehicle, which is guaranteed for 1 million miles), plus reduced maintenance. As the model employs regenerative braking, Musk touted the Semi’s brake pads as having a “quasi-infinite lifespan.”

TTAC’s own Bozi Tatarevic takes issue with Tesla’s math, claiming that maintenance costs would need to fall nearly to nearly zero in order to reach the stated operational costs. Of course, the model’s mysterious price doesn’t help the calculations.

“Average maintenance cost for diesel trucks is around $0.166 now and considering how Tesla runs parts and service, I am hard pressed to believe that they can reduce that to $0.03 or so,” Tatarevic said in a Twitter post (one of many that raised the ire of the Tesla fan base).

So, are you interested? If so, be prepared to wait until 2019 for production to begin, but the company will take your $5,000 reservation now. According to the terms and conditions of those reservations, “the timing of your order may depend on development, manufacturing and production schedules, among other factors.”

Given that the company’s main focus right now is clearing assembly and supply hurdles for the Model 3 sedan — which recently saw its production ramp-up pushed back by a quarter of a year — you might not want to set that calendar date in stone. No one knows where Tesla plans to build the thing, as its Fremont assembly plant won’t have the spare capacity after the company reaches its passenger car production goals. The company’s currently burning through all available cash to iron out issues delaying the ramp-up. (Maybe that’s where the $250,000 upfront price for the first 1,000 Roadsters comes in.)

As well, the Megacharger network exists only on paper. How the company plans to juggle all of these balls (and pay for them) at the same time remains a nagging question. Still, it won’t be a shock to see the automaker’s stock soar once trading opens this morning. That’s just how it goes in Teslaland.

[Images: Tesla]

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70 Comments on “Head of the Class 8? With Its Semi, Tesla Promises a Trucking Alternative...”


  • avatar
    random1

    Paying for them is the easy part for Tesla. There is no shortage of silly money floating around willing to finance anything. The rest, who knows. Shorting Musk has mostly been a losing proposition, whatever you think of their cars/products.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “On a 5-percent grade, Tesla says the Semi can maintain 65 mph”

    I hope it has an autopilot that keeps it out of the left lane when going up hills. Add to that in the twisties- if it senses a certain amount of steering input over several seconds then “encourage” the driver to move out of the left lane. It can do this either with the autopilot, or to use some of that gargantuan battery charge on shock therapy for the driver to correct his/her disruptive driving habits and discourage him/her from holding up traffic in the future.

    Cue the “hurr durr trucking important for the economy” chorus of bad truck driver apologists…

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      I know how someone’s commute went this morning.

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      I know how someone’s commute went this morning.

    • 0 avatar
      tylermattikow

      I would love to see that. Maybe by using auto pilot convoys to lower costs we will see fewer left lane trucks in the future.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        My favorite part of American interstates is two truck drivers trying to pass each other at a 0.5 mph differential in speed.

        • 0 avatar
          True_Blue

          It’s like watching glaciers drag race.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Not just truck drivers. Yahoos in passenger cars, and most certainly CUV/SUVs, as well. Probably the greatest social benefit of all of radar cruise, is that it lets the Ricky Retardos queue up as they should, instead of brainlessly causing cruise clots. Tesla’s promised “blistering acceleration” may help on the trucking side, as many truck drivers at least try, but do take a while getting up to reasonable differentials when heavily loaded.

          Either way, you know you live in a dystopian hellhole, when cops spend more effort shaking down people in Autobahn derived high speed sleds in zero traffic, infinite visibility Nevada; than they do discouraging blocking of both freeway lanes, by morons too dumb to even comprehend the concept of a speed differential.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Hopefully the Autopilot can keep the dimwits from stuffing their trucks under low overpasses on no-trucks-allowed parkways.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s actually your own fault for being behind the truck, not ahead of it. When the left lane is open, floor-it in anticipation of multiple trucks playing leapfrog, or when you know there’s a hill coming up. And stay tight to the car ahead of you. When you leave trucks an ample opening, it’s like you’re waving them in.

      When you linger behind, that’s not their fault.

  • avatar
    redapple

    More Tesla Vapor ware and BS.
    (let the nasty grams start…..)

    Simple question to cut thru the MuskBS.
    What does the TRACTOR weigh?

    • 0 avatar
      ScarecrowRepair

      Some article said the tractor weighs 33,000 pounds.

      • 0 avatar
        ahintofpepperjack

        Full size sleeper cab trucks typically weigh 16,000-20,000lbs. Some of the new models coming out are touting weight reductions that get them under 16,000lbs. Day cab trucks, like the Tesla here, are under 15,000 lbs.

        Trucks are limited to a gross vehicle weight of 80,000lbs. That means this Telsa truck can carry ~15,000lbs less than a current truck. I doubt they are factoring that into their “cost savings”.

        • 0 avatar
          tnk479

          You lost me. You seem to be contradicting yourself. Is the Tesla truck heavier than comparable diesel trucks or not?

          • 0 avatar
            SlowMyke

            Yeah, the Tesla truck apparently weighs 33k, per a couple posts above. Comparable conventional trucks weigh about 15k – 20k, per above. So about 15k – 20k more in weight for a Tesla truck.

        • 0 avatar
          redapple

          Exactly what I was driving at. Every extra pound takes away from the freight you can carry.

          • 0 avatar
            SlowMyke

            True, but not every freight company is shipping max capacity. If the energy efficiency outweighs the cost of entry for a conventional truck, why wouldn’t a shipper take that over excess capacity?

        • 0 avatar
          raffi14

          Most payloads are going to be volume-limited pallets, not weight-limited. Unless they’re moving fluids or dirt or something.

    • 0 avatar
      SlowMyke

      Fine, I’ll bite. I don’t follow every single Tesla press event/release, but i don’t really recall anything he’s announced that hasn’t actually come out. I mean, it’s never on time, but as far as i know, it’s all getting made.

      So what’s the vaporware?

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        You obviously have never worked at a manufacturing company. The vaporware is that any shmuck can come up with a one-off cool concept vehicle like this one.

        But it takes actual hard work to get it to a point where it is ready for full production – years’ worth of work, and hundreds of millions of dollars in cost (all-told, including supplier tooling and the production line tooling, durability testing, DOT/NHTSA certifications, and so on).

        This truck is vaporware at this point because of all of that not having even been done yet.

        And they do NOT have the cash to put either this truck, or the newly-announced Roadster, into production. They will be darn lucky to even get the Model 3 issues corrected. In the mean time, they are burning cash like no tomorrow.

        You can support Musk all you want, but when they run out of cash, the doors close and everybody goes home.

        • 0 avatar
          SlowMyke

          How about we chill on the trolling, yeah? I never said I’m a Musk fan i actually said i don’t follow everything he says. But as far as your comment that this is MORE vaporware, i don’t see where that comes in. You’re free to have your opinion on the feasibility of the truck, but as far as I’m aware they haven’t announced much vaporware in the past.

          Also, it takes years of hard work and millions of dollars and certifications to get cars on the road, too. Last i checked, they’ve put 4 different models out on the road thus far. Seems like perhaps they understand how making vehicles works.

          I will say my biggest concern/criticism about all this is that Musk seems to lack focus now. Tesla is all over the place in product announcements and we all know how well they stick to timelines. But he is also trying to go from a niche brand into a full lineup as fast as possible. I don’t run a giant manufacturing company, and i doubt you do, either. But maybe you can let him know he’s done screwed up and is about to fail as a company?

          • 0 avatar
            addm

            I doubt Tesla is lacking focus. A large part of expenditure of a traditional automobile manufacturer is developing new engine and platform to accommodate new technology. A electric drivetrain offers much more flexibility. For truck, they r using the same motors as in Model 3. I doubt the new roadster needed much expenditure regarding new platform.

  • avatar
    V16

    TESLA PROMISES should apply to every new vehicle in their lineup.
    Sizzle but no steak.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Just an observation. The ground clearance between front and rear axles is most likely highly inadequate. Will work for highway, but not in cities where cargo is actually picked up and delivered. Similarly, any significant increase in grade, say from a driveway approach, sunken delivery bays, etc, will result in catastrophic damage to the top of the cab as it would seem that the streamlined design leaves no room for any sort of approach or departure angles. Perhaps it will be carrying typical cargo containers, boxes as we are accustomed to seeing, but aerodynamics is seemingly a big part of this design and the aero wont work in the real world unless there is a way to distance the cab further from the trailer and increase ground clearance. Picking nits for a prototype perhaps but seems like a production version would have to lose alot of the visual appeal of this prototype.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I’m certain Tesla didn’t consult anyone in the trucking industry before designing this.

      Sarcasm aside, your points are well taken. In the hilly terrain of Pittsburgh, trucks sometimes get high-centered on the crest of a hill, even with the high clearance in today’s vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        crackers

        Also add in the clearance required for shredded tires and dead deer.

        I hope they added a provision for bull bars – in many part of the country they are a necessity.

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          hey, crackers…help me out with this as well. i see this quoted everywhere today: According to the American Transportation Research Institute, 62 percent of U.S. pickups and deliveries fall within the longer-ranged model’s range.
          but what confuses me here is the devil in the details. what deliveries of this data would include the semi long hauler? seems most of this is done with lighter delivery trucks and makes most of this claim meaningless.
          no way in heck this truck does anything more than long hauls with full weight.

          • 0 avatar
            Tele Vision

            The preface of this post looked pretty funny on the landing page.

          • 0 avatar
            crackers

            Relatively short range deliveries will often use full size rigs but don’t the require sleeper cabs used on long haul routes. Consider the case of a central distribution warehouse that services stores within a 200 mile radius.

            These trucks still have to travel open highways and will encounter all kinds of road debris and wildlife. Since these trucks are on the road almost constantly, the odds of encountering debris increases substantially. Unlike cars, trucks have limited options to maneuver around debris and often have to drive over it or in the case of wildlife, mow it down. A truck with very low ground clearance will require frequent repairs. In certain parts of the country, it’s not uncommon to see 2 or 3 dead deer on the highway in a 100 mile stretch depending upon the season. Trucks in these parts of country often install bull bars to protect the front end of the truck.

    • 0 avatar
      markogts

      As far as I understood, the last part of the cabin is made of adjustable, moving flaps. Regarding ground clearance, already the model S has pneumatic suspension, so this should not be an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      There’s also the issue of mirrors. I expect that the mirror delete is pretty important to achieving the range being promised but I don’t think that federal vehicle code allows for replacing mirrors with cameras.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      What about the fact that the drive wheels are concealed ? How much mud would get stuck in there ? Or the fact that there are only single wheels not pairs, which I’m pretty sure would violate weight regulations.

      There’s also the fact that these are only pictures.

      You know they could have started sensible with a cab over rigid for city work, but I guess that’s not the Tesla way…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…the truck’s scorching acceleration times — hardly top of mind for fleet operators…”

    Actually, I’d bet acceleration *does* matter when you’re contemplating a merge with 80,000 lbs GVWR under your control. It’s just that improved acceleration never been an option before.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So Smokey and the Bandit redone with the Tesla tractor, new Roadster, and Sheriff Justice in a Tesla S? :-P

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    TTAC: “Tesla plans to sell a day cab semi-trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating of 80,000 pounds, with power provided by four Model 3 motors.”

    Where does the passenger sit? On the battery housing in back of the tractor?
    Why day cab? Complete Class 8 needs full capability: AT LEAST 500 mile range.
    How does it start up, and go up, the “Ike Gauntlet” at -15 deg F?
    How well does it handle the Arizona desert at 115 deg F?
    Can it recharge in 15 minutes and be on its way (like refueling diesel)?
    What is the expected price for this abomination?
    What is the projected lifetime of the battery pack under these demanding use conditions?
    Since E-motors lose torque under load at high RPM, how will it handle passing at 70 MPH?
    What is the lifetime of the e-motors?

    ========================

    • 0 avatar
      markogts

      I don’t have all the answers, however some points:
      -electrical motors are the least of the problems, they are always way more reliable than any ICE.
      -Tesla has good knowledge on battery chemistry and how it affects lifetime. Just check out the video of professor Jeff Dahn, who is now working with Tesla.
      -All fixed-power prime movers lose torque with increasing speed, is a matter of physics: P=T x w . Conventional trucks get the torque decrease at each upshift, with the electrical motors it’s stepless.

      Regarding the 15 minutes charging: what is the law-mandated stop after 8 hours of driving? Afterall, that is what it takes to make that 500 miles at truck speed, right?

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        markogts – – –

        M: “Regarding the 15 minutes charging: what is the law-mandated stop after 8 hours of driving? Afterall [sic], that is what it takes to make that 500 miles at truck speed, right?”

        Not quite.
        Here are the regs below – – –
        “This window is usually thought of as a “daily” limit even though it is not based on a 24-hour period. You are allowed a period of 14 consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. The 14-consecutive-hour driving window begins when you start any kind of work.”
        ref: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Drivers%20Guide%20to%20HOS%202015_508.pdf

        And here is what another commenter said about his issue:

        DR Benkert NMGOM • 2 hours ago
        I agree completely with the previous comments.
        Sounds like a great idea but little consideration here for reality.
        Maybe SOMEDAY it will be possible, but not without lots of trial and errors.
        I admire Elon as a man of vision and a game changer, but sooner or later the investors will demand results!

        ======================

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I’ll admit commercial trucks are a little out of my wheelhouse, but from what I can tell, day cabs look to be about half of the market, roughly? And, it appears that 300 miles a day is a reasonable starting point for that market (based on the average age/mileages for resale units, it looks like day cabs average about 5000 miles per month).

      Also, there’s pretty clearly a jump seat behind the driver’s seat.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Maymar – – –

        What you say is true re day cabs.
        But Over-the-Road is the big test, and the aerodynamics here suggest that’s what Elon is shooting for.
        You can have CNG-powered hybrids even now doing local deliveries for a lot less money..

        ===============

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      The article states Tesla’s claim that the truck can recharge to a 400 mile range in 30 minutes via (not yet extant) Megacharge. Maybe not a 15 minute diesel fill up but about the time of a meal break.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        ClutchCarGo – – –

        CCG: “Tesla’s claim that the truck can recharge to a 400 mile range in 30 minutes..”

        Elon is fond f claiming a lot of things….especially when they don’t exist (^_^)..

        ==================

  • avatar
    stingray65

    My guess is the projected operating cost advantage assumes that EVs will continue to pay no fuel taxes on the juice they use, but that advantage will be very short-lived if lots of VERY HEAVY Electric Semis start crushing roads and aren’t paying any taxes to repair them. Put the equivalent of 40-50 cents per gallon tax on that Megacharger juice and much of that fuel savings will disappear.

    The other big question is whether Mr. Musk has put his big rig through the same rigorous testing (NOT) that he has put his other vehicles. I’m not so sure there a lots of big truck operators who will take Musk at his word that these things will be dead reliable for a million miles.

    • 0 avatar
      ahintofpepperjack

      Exactly. Trucking companies can not afford to have an unreliable vehicle. They expect ~300,000 trouble free miles. These companies will not be willing to be beta testers for Tesla. Current truck manufacturers have 100 years of experience building trucks.

      Also, to make these Tesla trucks viable, companies will need to install these mega chargers at their terminals. I’m going to assume that will be quite expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        mrwiizrd

        “These companies will not be willing to be beta testers for Tesla.”

        J.B. Hunt announced this morning that it has already placed orders for multiple tesla semi trucks.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Elon’s becoming an amalgam of Preston Tucker and Madman Muntz.
    When do the Tesla airliners and cruise ships roll out?

    But the Tesla name certainly has cachet…I heard this morning JB Hunt and Wal Mart are both listening to his pitch.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I once worked for a supplier to Wal-Mart’s distribution system.

      That company is interested in *anything* that reduces their handling costs, which is a large part of their secret to low prices. End customers don’t want to pay S&H for any product.

  • avatar
    mrwiizrd

    “These companies will not be willing to be beta testers for Tesla.”

    J.B. Hunt announced this morning that it has already placed orders for multiple tesla semi trucks. Oops.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I love the ideal of efficiency, and believe you can do much more good my raising the MPGs of the worst vehicles than by boosting performance of already-efficient autos. Going from 10 mpg to 20 saves many more gallons than moving from 50 to 100 mpg (do the math). But I’m weary of Tesla’s overheated ambitions. They could probably do more good by creating electric urban delivery vehicles, and that would be less of a stretch from their present cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Scott_314

      Going from 10 mpg to 12 mpg saves far more gas than going from 50 mpg to 100 mpg. Do the math :).

      Really could the US just change to kilometers and liters, and liters per 100km, and all the other metric units, like other countries with a brain?

      (I floated that last part out there).

      • 0 avatar
        markogts

        Exactly. When you travel, you decide how many km you have to do, not how many “gallons” you’ll burn. so distance must be in the denominator.

        PS strictly speaking, the SI unit for fuel consumption should be m^2 :-)

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I guess if you are the type of person who doesn’t just fill the tank then it is relevant. No wait it isn’t there is still math involved unless you just so happen to “decide” how many km you have to do just so happens to be a convenient multiple or divisor of 100. Other wise it is just as easy to do distance to travel divided by MPG as it is to do a multiple or portion of that 100km times the rating.

          You buy fuel by the volume and that is why the amount of distance you can cover per volume is the proper metric to use.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        No, base 10 is too complicated for ‘Murica!

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Wheatridger: You need to factor in that there are a lot more cars than heavy trucks.

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    Dear Mr Musk

    I heard about your new truk here is my 5000 all that is left from my life savignes you can deeliver it with the model 3 i orderred long time ago god bless you

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’m all for this, but given such long service lives of big rigs, there’d need to be some serious tax breaks for the trucking companies.This makes more sense to me than a 100k SUV or S class competitor.
    I can see these making sense for something like the I70 run b/w STL and KC, with a sophisticated governor and radar cruise to prevent any more highway carnage from inattentive drivers

    As a consumer , I absolutely would pay a tad bit more if I knew it was delivered by an electric truck.From a marketing standpoint your Whole Foods, Sprouts etc . would be ideal for marketing.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      “As a consumer , I absolutely would pay a tad bit more if I knew it was delivered by an electric truck.”

      Why?

      • 0 avatar
        volvo driver

        Because NOx and particulates from over the road diesel trucks are the largest single source of air pollution that I have to breathe in my area. I’m willing to pay extra for clean air.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “As a consumer , I absolutely would pay a tad bit more if I knew it was delivered by an electric truck.”

      I wouldn’t.

      All things being equal, lowest price is the driving force behind my purchase.

      Why would anyone pay more for a car or truck that was delivered by an electric truck Car Carrier?

      Do you always offer to pay more for a vehicle than the dealer asks, when you buy one?

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        Everyone who buys a hybrid or ev pays someone or other more than they would for an equivalent ICE-only vehicle. Lots of people pay extra for cleaner power or natural gas.

        This is not so strange. Others pay extra to support their interests, such as for a bigger engine in their new car, or every hobbyist.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          brandloyalty, that makes sense but generally, most people do not offer to pay more for something than the going price.

          Like paying $1.25 for $1.00 worth of spuds, as an example.

          Given a choice, most people would choose to pay less.

  • avatar
    colin42

    A typical class 8 truck cost $120k. I calculated some batteries estimates from the data Tesla presented

    Tesla will need between an 800-1050kw.hr battery. Assume $145/kWh this cost between $116K – $152K. If this drops to $100 kW,h then cost would be $80k – $105k
    With today Li-on this will weigh between 5300kg (11,750lb) and 7000kg (15,430lb) with a volume of 3.2 – 4.2 m3 (845 – 1110 us.gal)
    Assume Solid State batteries and 2025 predicted energy density weight would be 1330 – 1750kg (3000 – 3900lb) and volume would be 1.33 – 1.75m3 (350 – 460 us.gal)

  • avatar
    Yurpean

    It seems many just reflectively diss Tesla because they want them to fail. Yet, those with money at stake seem to find this a lretty good idea and to me it’s fairly clear why:

    Most trucks travel between ports, distribution hubs, and warehouses. I am pretty sure the fleet managers, accountants, and controllers have a very good idea what their diesel costs are and how much they could save by generating their own fuel by plastering warehouse rooftops with solar panels.

    I also don’t get the recharge reasoning. A semi is not an uber where the “cargo” is loaded and unloaded in half a minute. Once a truck pulls up to a supermarket to unload, it stays there for quite a while. The panels on the market roof charge the truck and once emptied the tryck is fully charged.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    “Shore power” to run refrigeration units etc. Yep, they pack a lot of power.


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