Tesla Semi FAQ: All the Facts

November 20, 2017 by Ryan ZumMallen, @Zoomy575M

Here are the facts about the Tesla semi that Chief Executive Elon Musk plans to produce in 2019.

What makes the Tesla semi different?

The Tesla Semi represents a stark departure from conventional heavy-duty trucks. It has a sleek, aerodynamic design and all-electric power. Its speed, range and charging characteristics announced by Musk make the Tesla Semi stand out among Class 8 trucks.

How fast is it?

Unloaded, the Tesla Semi accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds, according to Musk. With a full 80,000-pound load, the truck reaches 60 mph in 20 seconds. A conventional diesel-powered truck takes 15 seconds and 60 seconds, respectively.

The Tesla can climb a 5 percent grade with a full load at 65 mph. A conventional truck maxes out at 45 mph. The Tesla has no transmission and only one gear, so it loses no time and speed to shifting. Diesel-powered semis have between 10 and 18 gears.

What type of batteries will the truck use?

Tesla will use a battery pack made of “industrial” cells rather than the smaller cylindrical cells in its cars. But the company did not disclose the exact battery chemistry. The battery pack will be mounted beneath the cab between the front axle and the first of the two rear axles. Tesla did not provide the pack’s size and weight.

How far can it travel on a charge?

Fully loaded, the truck can travel 500 miles on a single charge, Musk said. One version will have 300 miles of range, according to Morgan Stanley Research analysts Ravi Shanker and Adam Jonas.

What will it be used for?

Its 500-mile range positions the truck for short- and medium-haul routes. It will likely be used to transport cargo from ports to local distribution centers. A planned sleeper cab version will be able to travel 1,000 miles, Musk said.

How will the Tesla Semi recharge?

Tesla will build a network of high-speed, solar-powered charging systems called megachargers. They will provide 400 miles of range in 30 minutes. Megacharger use will cost 7 cents per kilowatt, Musk said.

What technology does it have?

The Tesla Semi is powered by four electric motors from the Model 3 sedan. Each is controlled independently. Sensors will automatically adjust the motors to correct for pitch, yaw and traction. Two 15-inch touchscreen displays mounted on either side of the driver will provide access to navigation, blind-spot monitoring, telematics, maintenance and fleet management systems. Cameras mounted outside the cab provide surround view.

What safety systems are equipped?

Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot system will be standard equipment. Enhanced Autopilot includes self-driving capabilities such as steering the vehicle around corners, keeping in its lane and adaptive cruise control, which stop and accelerate with traffic patterns. Enhanced Autopilot also can match speed to traffic conditions, change lanes without driver input, approach on- and off-ramps. And without a driver inside, the system can pull itself in and out of parking spots.

The Tesla Semi will be capable of “platooning,” a system where a digitally tethered pack of trucks travel close together to increase fuel efficiency. Tesla has applied to test Level 4 autonomous platoons across state lines, according to reports cited by Morgan Stanley Research. The Tesla Semi will be capable of fully autonomous operation once it is permitted by federal regulations.

How much will it cost to operate?

An electric-powered vehicle typically requires less upkeep and maintenance than a convention vehicle because there are fewer parts causing less friction. The total cost of operation for the Tesla Semi will be less than a diesel-powered Class 8 truck “on Day One,” Musk said. The Tesla Semi will cost $1.26 per mile, compared with $1.51 per mile for a conventional truck, or about 20 percent cheaper, according to Tesla.

Bloomberg estimated that an electric truck driving 60,000 miles per year can save $4,000 in maintenance and $14,000 in fuel when paying 11 cents per kilowatt — four cents more than Musk promised. The Tesla Semi also comes with a 1-million-mile guarantee, and the company estimates the as-yet unannounced up-front cost of the truck will be recouped in two years. “We anticipate significant utilization benefits on top of this,” Shanker and Jonas wrote.

Are there any customers?

Yes. The national carrier J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. placed a reservation on multiple Tesla Semi tractors to be deployed on the West Coast. “We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new sustainable technology,” said John Roberts, J.B. Hunt’s chief executive. Transportation incubator Calstart posted on Twitter that one of its fleet members plans to order 100 Tesla Semi tractors.

How much does it cost?

Trucks with the batteries that are capable of 300 miles of range will be priced from $150,000. The trucks with 500 miles of range cost at least $180,000. To reserve either truck, a reservation of $20,000 is required. The first 1,000 trucks will be called the “Founder’s Series.” Pricing starts at $200,000 and a reservation of the full cost is required up front. A typical regional day cab truck costs $100,000 to $125,000. Larger sleeper cabs can be priced from $125,000 to $150,000.

What We Don’t Know

A day after the Tesla semi-truck’s debut, there are still unanswered questions.

What is it made of?

The prototypes shown by Tesla on Thursday are made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP, which is extremely light and strong. The company has not decided what materials it will use to build the production version. The final decision will affect the truck’s weight, capability and cost.

What are the battery pack specifications?

Tesla has not revealed the size of the battery packs that will power the Tesla Semi. The horsepower and torque figures are also unclear.

Where will it be built?

No production site has been announced for the Tesla Semi yet. The company’s sole manufacturing facility, the site of a former joint venture between General Motors and Toyota in Fremont, Calif., has struggled with production and quality control surrounding the Model S, Model X and Model 3 passenger vehicles. Tesla won approval to double the size of its facility in August.

When do the megachargers come online?

No details were provided regarding a timeline for the installation of the new megacharger network. “It is unclear at this time if this is a new network independent of the existing Supercharging network,” Shanker and Jonas wrote.

Read Next: Elon Musk Unveils Superfast, 500-mile Range Tesla Electric Semi-Truck

2 Responses

  1. TT

    I am guessing platooning will not affect “fuel” efficiency on an electric vehicle.

    As long as the mega chargers are placed correctly, having a truck that can charge 400 miles in 30 minutes than the trucks can be used for cross country travel as drivers will need the 30 minute break every six hours. In addition, with platooning, you can have three trucks with three drivers each driving eight hours per 24 hours and being able to travel 24/7.

    How Tesla just needs to deliver.

  2. Bob Wilson

    Using these metrics from the Tesla presentation:
    $1.51/mi – diesel
    $2.50/gal – diesel price
    $1.26/mi – electric
    $0.07/kWh – electric rate
    Three truck convoy
    $0.85/mi – electric

    These data suggest:
    1.66 miles per gallon of diesel (for 80,000 lbs?)
    9.07 mWh battery capacity for 500 mi
    5.44 mWh battery capacity for 300 mi

    In a three truck, convoy:
    6.07 mWh battery for 500 mi
    3.64 mWh battery for 300 mi

    Now if transporting heavy battery packs from Reno NV, 4500 ft, to the assembly plant in Fremont, CA, 56 ft., the electric truck regeneration could make 133 kWh of charge. Of course raw materials have to climb the grade, there is no free lunch.


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