Now that the furor over Elon Musk’s rudeness to those poor little stock analysts has faded, let’s look at some of the interesting information that was revealed on Tesla’s quarterly earnings call. One of several tantalizing tidbits dropped by Musk: he expects the production version of the Tesla Semi to have a 600-mile range.
When Tesla unveiled the Semi last November, it promised a 500-mile range. That was plenty to pique the interest of fleet customers such as UPS, Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo. With a healthy number of orders already on the books, why bother to throw another 100 miles into the pot?
It may be that Elon Musk wanted to signal his confidence that Tesla has major battery innovations in the pipeline. Many observers believe that the company won’t be able to deliver the Semi’s promised performance without some sort of battery breakthrough.
Also on the conference call, Musk and CTO JB Straubel expanded on the idea of selling renewable energy to Tesla Semi customers charging at a low, fixed rate. “For trucking companies, if the cost of diesel goes up a few cents, it destroys their business,” said Musk. With “a solar battery powered Megacharger, we have constant costs. And we know what they are. We bake them in.”
Musk reiterated that the Semi would offer “a lower cost per mile than a diesel truck.” A recent report from the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (via GreenBiz) paints a more cautious figure, predicting that electric Class 7 and 8 trucks won’t be cost-competitive with legacy diesel vehicles until 2025 or 2030. Daimler Head of Trucks Martin Daum is also a skeptic, claiming that the Semi’s announced specs stretch the laws of physics.
Time will tell if Elon’s confidence is justified. However, he’s well aware that, unlike the passenger car market, the trucking market is driven by costs, not fun. “We tried to make our Semi kind of cool and sexy, just because we think that that’s a good thing to do, not because it affects the buying decision of our customers in a meaningful way,” said Musk, adding that commercial customers aren’t making decisions based on “aesthetics or consumer-related things.”