A viable electric Class 8 truck would be a massive disruptor of the global transport system, and since the unveiling of the Tesla Semi in 2017, we’ve been on the edge of our ergonomic bucket seats, waiting for it to appear on highways.
Alas, Tesla’s production schedule has suffered more delays than the LA Freeway. The company originally said the Semi would come to market in 2019, and numerous fleet operators placed orders. Later the production date was pushed back to 2020, then to 2021. Now it finally appears that things are starting to happen.
In March, Electrek reported that Tesla was building a production line at a new building near Gigafactory Nevada, which was expected to be producing five Tesla Semis per week by the end of this year. Now Electrek’s sources say that the drive axle production line is ready, and the general assembly line is going through final debugging—one of the last steps before starting production.
Tesla has indicated that at least a few Semis will be delivered to customers this year, and PepsiCo, which placed an order for 100 trucks shortly after the 2017 launch, said it expects to take delivery of 15 units by the end of the year. Tesla has said that it plans to use the first few Semis for its own operations.
Several manufacturers, including Volvo, Lion, BYD and Daimler, have electric Class 8 trucks on the road, at least in pilot operations, but none of them have anything like the specs that Tesla has promised.
At the launch, Tesla said the Semi will have a capacity of 80,000 pounds, a range of up to 500 miles, and a price tag of $150,000 to $180,000. If the company can deliver a truck in volume that offers anything like these figures, it could revolutionize the trucking industry, in which cost savings are measured in cents per mile.