Tesla’s Semi, the electric truck that the company unveiled a few months ago, has been sent on its first cargo trip, transporting battery packs from the gigafactory in Nevada to the Tesla car factory in California. That’s what Elon Musk said in an Instagram post with a picture showing two Semis ready to leave the gigafactory.
The Semis should help to bring down logistics costs of transporting battery packs from the gigafactory to other facilities, which Musk, according to Electrek, had earlier referred to as “gigantic.” The distance between the gigafactory and the Fremont car plant is some 250 miles, so the trip would demonstrate the range of the Semis: according to Tesla, the trucks can travel 500 miles with a full load without a recharge.
There are skeptics, however. “If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously buy two trucks -- one to take apart and one to test because if that happens, something has passed us by. But for now, the same laws of physics apply,” Daimler’s head of trucks told Bloomberg last month.
But Tesla’s Semi does comply with the laws of physics, after all. There have been eyewitness reports - plus videos - of Semi test drives on California highways. Daimler’s executives have good reason to be worried. If the Semi does have a 500-mile range, and if it does perform as promised, it will turn into a potentially deadly competitor for Daimler’s own electric truck line, which is slated to reach markets in 2021. That’s three years after Musk said the Semi will go into mass production.
While it’s true that Tesla has had more than a little trouble meeting its own deadlines, it may have learned its lesson with the Model 3, and the Semi could indeed become available next year.
But it’s not just a question of timetables. Observers question the performance of the truck too. According to figures released by Tesla, Electrek notes, the battery pack of the truck should have a capacity of 1 MWh and it should be very heavy and very expensive. Also, such a battery pack should not be possible based on the current battery cell technology that Tesla uses in its other vehicles. It’s never too late for Tesla to surprise truckmakers, though, and manage to make the Semi cheaply enough to sell for US$150,000-180,000.