Weeks ahead of its scheduled debut, the highly-anticipated Class 8 semi-tractor truck from Tesla Inc. may have been spotted undergoing testing in the California desert.
A photo of what appears to be a Tesla prototype was posted to Reddit on Tuesday morning before it was abruptly removed. Users who noticed the original post immediately published it again.
The truck appears to resemble the design displayed in a teaser image Tesla released earlier this year, which shows futuristic styling highlighted by a wraparound windscreen and large vertical headlights atop aggressive wheel wells.
Tesla said its policy is to decline comment on speculation.
However, commenters in the Reddit forum quickly began to speculate on details such as where the truck stores its batteries, whether it has room for a bed inside the cabin and what the truck might look like with a fuel-efficient fairing mounted on top.
Tesla plans to reveal the truck on Oct. 26 and have it operating on public roads by 2020. The vehicle will be the first foray into heavy-duty trucking for the Palo Alto, Calif., automaker, which specializes in electric passenger vehicles and battery technology.
The truck is expected to be fully electric and feature autonomous driving capabilities, according to industry analysts. Such features could drastically reduce the operating cost of owning the truck compared to conventional semis, making the Tesla more appealing to shipping fleets.
Analysts also estimate the truck will have 200 to 300 miles of electric driving range, and cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $240,000. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has said that the truck will have “a very good gross margin” compared to competitors, because it will borrow existing technology from the company’s passenger vehicles.
“What they’re proposing from a technology standpoint is really cool,” said Fred Andersky, director of customer solutions for Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems at the North American Commercial Vehicle show in Atlanta.
Tesla faces many challenges ahead, such as increasing electric range without adding too much weight from extra batteries, and avoiding the pitfalls that prevented more widespread adoption of alternative fuels such a natural gas, Andersky said.
However, he agrees with analysts who say Tesla and electrified trucks can achieve 10 percent market share within the next five years.
“Tesla is making a lot of companies that have been in this industry a long time look at the ways they’re doing stuff and changing them,” he said.