Elon Musk envisions future highways where hissing, fume-spewing trucks are replaced by the Tesla Semi, a fully-electric and silent big rig. The Semi may be arriving soon, a formal launch is expected in 2019, and deliveries are set to begin shortly after.
While it hasn’t yet been formally released, there have been a plethora of sightings of the heralded semi-truck roaming around the United States, most of them during what seemed like a summer road trip. In June, it was spotted on a California highway, shortly after it was seen parked at a Supercharger in the same state. It was later seen in August, visiting the offices of some of its biggest corporate buyers like UPS. Most recently, a cherry-red model was seen spotted shortly after Christmas last year juicing up at a Supercharger about half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The Semi has wowed EV enthusiasts so far, and won over several big companies and even government buyers. If it can maintain the momentum set during its pre-order period and unveiling, and deliver the product on time, you should expect to see convoys of the vehicle quietly hauling Amazon packages and delivering supplies to retailers down interstates very soon.
When Will Tesla Semis Be Delivered?
Upon their announcement, Musk said pre-orders would be delivered in 2019 but that’s there’s reason to think that timeline is already a tad unrealistic. While prototypes have been spotted multiple times, we’ll likely have to wait another year or two before they truly hit the streets.
Certain reservation holders are reportedly expecting deliveries in 2020, a year after Musk’s optimistic estimate.
How Much Does a Tesla Semi Cost?
Musk claimed that the Tesla Semi “rides like a sports car,” and it costs like one too.
The electric cargo-haulers will come in two variants one with a 300-mile range starting at $150,000 and the other with a 500-mile range for $180,000 plus a $20,000 base reservation fee for each vehicle. That’s a fair bit more than the cost of your average fossil-fuel burning semi truck, which usually goes for between $80,000 and $150,000.
What Companies Have Reserved Tesla Semis?
This means that, when you factor in likely smaller orders, Tesla probably has somewhere in the ballpark of at least 300 and 400 Semis pre-orders in the bank, though the company has not released an official tally.
What Can the Tesla Semi Do?
We haven’t really received any updates on features, but Musk was not shy about flexing the truck’s future capabilities during its launch.
The tech mogul said, for example, that it would be able to go from 0 to 60 in five seconds, it’ll come with an advanced autopilot feature that will guard against jackknifing, and the driver seat will be located in the center of the cab, like some kind of space pod.
“You’re positioned like you’re in a race car,” said Musk. “You have complete visibility of the road and all your surroundings.”
But its most astounding feature is its range. Both Tesla Semi variants are supposed to be able to drive hundreds of miles before they need to juice up again, making deliveries quicker and more effective than fossil fuel rigs that require frequent pitstops.
What Is the Megacharger and When Could They Be Ready?
To power these electric beasts, Musk plans to develop an improved version of the Supercharger network that he hopes will one day connect far-flung Teslas. These so called Megachargers will be able to power up a Semi in just half an hour.
In order to achieve this, the Megachargers will likely see at least 1 MW of power, per a Teslerati report, the equivalent of plugging in four conventional Superchargers. But of course, building these Megachargers, which are also to be solar-powered will be a challenge.
To streamline the process, Reuters reported back in February that Tesla plans to partner with the companies who have made pre-orders thus far, working in tandem with them to build Megachargers that are in their own facilities. That would cut down on the costs, but it could still be a while before we start to see Megachargers dotting pit stops.
Tesla Semi: Who’s The Competition?
Other companies have also stepped up to the plate to challenge Tesla in the emerging market for clean-energy big rigs.
Toyota and truck manufacturer Paccar unveiled a prototype for a hydrogen fuel cell long hauler during CES 2019. The vehicle was dubbed the Kenworth T680, and is said to have a range of about 300 miles. Its electric motors is powered using a combination of hydrogen gas and air to produce electricity, and it emits only water vapor.
The Arizona-based startup, Nikola Motor will also begin the initial production of its hydrogen fuel cell, semi truck fleet in 2019. The company is best known for claiming that its $375,000, Nikola One trucks will one day purify the air as they drive across the United States.
Nikola actually sued Tesla for $2 billion in 2018, claiming the design of its vehicle inspired the $150,000 Tesla Semi. But in September, an examiner from the United States Patent and Trademark Office acknowledged that both trucks are distinguishable.