Tesla Inc. released prices for its Semi Class 8 electric truck, and as with other vehicles from the automaker, expect to pay a premium.

The Semi starts at what Tesla calls an “expected base price” of $150,000 for a truck with a 300-mile range per battery charge. That jumps to $180,000 for a 500-mile range truck. The higher price covers the cost of a bigger battery.

The prices are before any applicable state and local incentives.

For those who value being first, the Palo Alto, Calif., EV maker will label the first 1,000 Tesla Semis as “Founder’s Series” models and price them at $200,000 a pop.

Tesla also increased its reservation fee to $20,000 per truck. The fee was $5,000 when Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk unveiled the truck in a former aircraft hangar near Tesla’s design center in Hawthorne, Calif., earlier this month.

The reservation fee for the Founder’s Series model is $200,000, the same as its price.

Buyers can expect a lengthy wait. Tesla says it plans to get the trucks into production in 2019.

The prices are higher than conventional diesel trucks. A local or regional day cab Class 8 rig sells for $100,000 to $120,000 depending on the model and configuration. Sleeper cab semi-tractors go for $125,000 to $150,000. Big motor carriers and fleet buyers typically pay at the lower end of the price ranges. Buyers of single or small numbers of trucks pay the higher prices.

Tesla says operators will recoup the Semi’s higher upfront price through lower operating expenses over a two-year period. It estimates that total cost of ownership of its electric truck will be 20 percent less than a diesel because of fuel and maintenance savings.

Tesla posted the pricing information on its website Friday. The company didn’t explain why the reservation fee increased.

Tesla markets all of its vehicles directly to the consumer rather than using franchised dealers. The company uses an advance reservation system to gauge initial interest. That also allows it to earn significant amounts of interest while it holds the refundable deposits.

The company says it has 455,000 reservations at $1,000 each for its new Model 3 sedan, for instance. That’s $455 million in the bank. Much of it collected when the car was first announced two years ago. It is just going into production now.

How Many Semi Orders Does Tesla Have?

Tesla so far has declined to disclose how many reservations it has taken for the Semi. Both trucking giant J.B. Hunt Transportation Services Inc. and Walmart Stores Inc. said they have placed multiple orders. Meijer, a grocery chain, said it ordered four. Loblaws, a Canadian grocer, reserved 25.

Walmart told Trucks.com it has ordered 15 of the Class 8 tractors. And clean transportation incubator Calstart said one of its fleet members plans to order 100 Tesla Semi tractors.

NFI, a Cherry Hill, N.J., carrier that specializes in moving cargo in and out of ports, also said it plans to purchase Tesla trucks.

“It is essential that NFI, and the entire industry, continues to find ways to minimize its environmental impact,” said Ike Brown, NFI’s president.

Tesla’s stature in the electric transportation sector is such that its push into trucking gives electric trucks “a greater reality in the minds of the people who invest,” said Steve Tam, an analyst at ACT Research.

Little is known about the production truck Tesla ultimately will build. The height, length, weight, battery capacity and materials to be used in its construction all remain undisclosed. The automaker has only provided range, acceleration, speed and gross weight data.

What is known has drawn varied reactions from industry analysts.

“Tesla unveiled the future of trucking with its Class 8 semi that topped most of our expectations in terms of performance, cost savings, capability and time to market,” Adam Jonas, a Morgan Stanley analyst, said in a report to investors.

Others are more skeptical.

“While the truck was impressive in many ways, we’re not yet sure of the economic case for truckers,” said Michael Baudendistel, an analyst with Stifel Financial Corp.

What is the Design of the Tesla Semi?

If Tesla hews to the Semi prototype shown at the introduction, it will be a smooth, aerodynamic tractor with few protrusions save for the side mirrors and a pair of surround-vision cameras mounted on wings at the rear of the cab roof.

The prototype’s hoodless nose slopes sharply down from a curving windshield that shows off a driver seat located dead center instead of to the left as in traditional trucks.

Tesla truck

Tesla's electric semi-truck. (Photo: Tesla)

The wheels are covered by fairings and the cab’s body panels extend almost to the road. That makes it appear taller and narrower than today’s beefy diesel cabs.

Acceleration is quick, about three times that of a standard Class 8 diesel. It will go from zero to 60 mph in 20 seconds with a full load. It will take just 5 seconds with no trailer to haul.

Musk has promised to build a global network of solar-powered “megachargers’ that could add 400 miles of range to a depleted Tesla Semi battery pack in just 30 minutes. Though that would make the truck suitable for many long-haul jobs, those chargers don’t yet exist.

Financial data firm Bloomberg has estimated that Telsla would have to build chargers that are 10 times more powerful than the supercharger it uses for its passenger cars.

What is the Competition for the Tesla Semi?

Tesla also is facing competition from others in the electric truck space.

Utah-based startup Nikola Motor has taken thousands of advance orders for a Class 8 hydrogen fuel-cell electric semi with up to 1,200 miles of range. It goes into production in 2021. Daimler has introduced an electric heavy truck prototype, slated for 2020. Volkswagen also plans to roll out electric trucks and buses. Toyota is testing a Class 8 fuel-cell electric drayage truck.

Chinese-backed BYD, is building electric buses and Class 6 through Class 8 electric trucks. Kenworth is developing a Class 8 hydrogen fuel-cell electric truck prototype it plans to launch early next year. Diesel engine giant Cummins Inc. recently showed an all-electric prototype. Electric bus maker Proterra said it intends to branch into electric trucks.

Tesla has a slight advantage over other electric truck competitors because its proprietary battery packs are more energy dense than others, and thus able to provide more range at less weigh, said Tom Gage, president of battery systems developer EV Grid. Gage helped develop the lithium-ion battery t-Zero electric sports car prototype that inspired the original Tesla Roadster.

Read Next: Truckers Might Be Biggest Obstacle on Tesla’s Road to Electric Trucking

About The Author

John O'Dell

John O'Dell is a Trucks.com contributing writer, green technology expert and editor of TheGreenCarGuy.com. He previously wrote for Edmunds.com and the Los Angeles Times, and served on the National Research Council committee that authored the seminal report “Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels.”

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