Still skeptical about the Tesla Semi? Advance orders are piling up, including one from the 800-pound brown gorilla of the shipping industry – UPS has announced that it will buy 125 units, the largest order so far.
UPS said it provided Tesla with data about its truck routes in order to evaluate how the vehicle will perform in its fleet. “As with any introductory technology for our fleet, we want to make sure it’s in a position to succeed,” UPS exec Scott Phillippi told Reuters, adding that most of the initial 125 trucks would be deployed in the US, and that Tesla will provide consultation and support on charging infrastructure. “We have high expectations and are very optimistic that this will be a good product and it will have firm support from Tesla to make it work.”
Other shippers that have placed orders include Walmart, J.B. Hunt, Sysco, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch and DHL. Confirmed orders already number at least 350 (and possibly many more – an Illinois construction firm revealed that its reservation number is 1230, fueling speculation that the number of pre-orders has climbed into the four figures).
CEO Elon Musk has said the Semi will be delivered in 2019. Skepticism about the date abounds, but customers don’t seem to be as worked up about possible delays as the press is. “Something like this that’s new and is as complex as the Semi, I don’t know if we can count on specific dates. We understand the challenges [Tesla is] facing,” said DHL exec Jim Monkmeyer. “This is the future and we want to be in on the ground floor.”
The Tesla Semi isn’t for everyone. “We met with Tesla and at this time we do not see a fit with their product and our fleet,” said Dave Bates, Senior VP of Old Dominion Freight Line, the fourth-largest carrier in the US.
Meanwhile, a Tesla partner has confirmed some of the performance specs that Elon Musk announced at the unveiling. “The Tesla Semi has already received important validation from some customers,” wrote Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas in a recent note to clients. “We spoke with management at XPO Logistics, one of the largest logistics companies in the country, that has been talking to Tesla on their EV semi for the past 18 months, including testing live prototypes. XPO management confirmed that in their testing, the features and capabilities of the truck mostly lived up to Tesla’s claims at the launch event, including the performance vs. diesel trucks up a 5% grade (55 mph vs 45 mph), recharging time, safety/anti jackknifing features and payload (similar to a typical diesel truck, as confirmed by Tesla).”
However, Jonas noted that XPO wasn’t able to confirm the most critical figure of all: the Semi’s 500-mile range.