Tesla begins taking orders for a ‘badass’ electric semi-truck

Tesla has finally opened up the order books for its semi-electric truck after a long four-year wait hampered by battery cell supply restrictions.

Having missed the opportunity to claim it’s the first electric semi-trailer on the market, Tesla has instead chosen to emphasize the performance capabilities of the Tesla Semi.

Perhaps at the top of the list is its ability to accelerate from 0-60 mph (0-96.5 km/h) in 20 seconds, a feature that Tesla called “badass.” That’s also thanks to a drag coefficient of 0.36 (the average truck and trailer combination is 6.08 according to this magazine).

Four independent motors – all on the rear axle – enable speeds of up to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) at 5%. Tesla says Semi’s power consumption is less than 2kWh per mile, which equates to the average power used in about 8 Model 3s.

Tesla Semi is available with two battery options. While Tesla has not specified power capacity, its website says the Peninsula can offer either 300 miles (482 km) or 500 miles (805 km) of range.

These specs are not for the faint of heart.

Just weeks ago, e-truck competitor Nikola opened orders for a Tre battery-electric battery pack. By comparison, it offers a top speed of 58 km/h at 6% and a driving range of 563 km from its 753 kWh battery.

Other specifications include a GCWR of 82,000 pounds (37 tons). Charging at 240 kW for a recharge time of 120 minutes (20-80%) and 480 kW of continuous power.

However, Tesla did not provide key specifications including GCWR, battery size or charging speed.

Tesla semi electric truck. Source: Tesla

The price is not high

Perhaps surprisingly, pricing for the Tesla Semi isn’t — as Tesla President Elon Musk might say — “high.”

“Expected base price” of $150,000 (converted AU$217,680) is for the semi-standard and $180,000 (converted AU$261,210) for the extended range variant.

On the other hand, Nicola did not mention the expected price of Tre, but only mentions a potential $150,000 discount for California fleets through the state. Hybrid and Zero Emissions Trucks and Buses Coupon Incentive Scheme (HVIP).

Tesla requires a reservation fee of US$20,000 (AUD$29,020). Interested parties are asked to deposit US$5,000 immediately and then arrange a transfer of the remaining amount within 10 days, plus another US$20,000 for each vehicle ordered.

Tesla claims that because half of the diesel semi-trailer’s operating costs are fuel, the payback time for half is two years.

Of course, only half is available in the US at the moment.

In Australia, New South Wales-based Janus Electric unveiled its prototype all-electric prime mover in April, featuring battery swap technology for trucks already on the road.

With a range of nearly 400 kilometers and a 630 kWh battery, it can be recharged in four hours. But it won’t need to do so while running once the company’s battery-swap stations are rolled out on the East Coast.

Tesla Semi Dash
Source: Tesla

Trucking on autopilot

But back to the Tesla Semi, which will undoubtedly attract the attention of fleets wishing to reduce driver fatigue.

It comes with Tesla’s signature advanced co-pilot, Autopilot, which Tesla says will help avoid collisions. Additional features, Tesla says, are a “centered driver mode” that provides “maximum visibility and control.”

He adds that the Semi’s low center of gravity provides rollover protection.

Tesla emphasizes that this is not self-driving and drivers should remain alert at all times.

A simple dash filled with two screens is a world apart from traditional trucking cabins. This, combined with autopilot and a largely vibration-free ride may start a new era for the trucking industry.

It will be interesting if Tesla Semi will change the rules of the game in the industry. By 2030, the American Trucking Association estimated the shortage of 160,000 drivers in the United States in its 2021 report.

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