Customers can now place orders for the Tesla Semi. Until now, companies could reserve one but not order one. The Tesla Semi had a 4-year gestation period, during which many of its specifications became public. The truck will have 4 electric motors powering the rear wheels and will be available with a range of 300 or 500 miles. The company has yet to release details on the battery sizes of each version.
The company says the “expected base price” is $150,000 for the standard Semi range and $180,000 for the extended range variant. This formulation of “expected baseline price” leaves some leeway to adjust prices based on the recent surge in commodity prices for lithium and nickel.
Here’s how to order one. Interested parties must make a deposit of $5,000 immediately and an additional $20,000 within 10 days. Tesla has not yet specified when the first trucks will be delivered.
Tesla wasn’t the first company to put a Class 8 electric tractor into the hands of customers. Our colleague Jo Borras was in California last week for the annual ACT heavy-duty truck show and was surrounded by battery-electric trucks from Volvo Trucks and others. What sets the Tesla Semi apart in what will soon be a crowded field is its specs.
Most trucks have the aerodynamic efficiency of a small barn. Tesla says the Semi has a Cd of 0.36. It’s remarkably low. According to a scientific study, the average tractor and trailer have a Cd greater than 6. That, my friends, is serious aerodynamic drag. Tesla insists the Semi will only consume less than 2 kWh of electricity per mile. My readers know I suck at math, but if you multiply 2 by the Semi’s listed range, you should be able to get a reasonable estimate of the battery size needed to hit the range targets.
The battery itself can recharge at 240kW of power and will need 2 hours to go from 20% to 80% state of charge. The Tesla Semi can maintain a speed of 60 mph while towing a loaded trailer up a 5% grade and sprint to 60 mph with a trailer attached in less than 20 seconds. It might not seem that fast, but keep in mind that the maximum truck and trailer weight is 82,000 lbs. My mother’s 1961 Hillman could hardly do better.
The Tesla Semi will come with a full suite of electronic driver assistance features, including Autopilot. The company stresses that drivers will need to keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times, just like a regular Tesla automobile. But the quiet, vibration-free ride should be a welcome relief for many long-haul truckers.
Fleet managers will be pleased to know that the Tesla Semi will reduce fuel costs, especially now that diesel prices are at record highs. According to Tesla, the truck should pay for itself by reducing maintenance and fuel costs in about 2 years. Will the Tesla Semi disrupt the heavy-duty truck industry the same way the Model 3 disrupted the passenger car market? Probably, and that’s a good thing for the Earth and the people who like to breathe pollution- and particle-free air.
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