Tesla Semi truck enters production; first examples to be delivered by early December

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk says the pure-electric Semi lorry can cover up to 500 miles on a charge, with the first examples going to PepsiCo

Tesla Semi

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced that production of the company’s pure-electric Semi truck has begun, and that the first examples will be delivered to PepsiCo on 1 December. In another tweet, Musk also reaffirmed that the Tesla Semi can cover up to 500 miles on a charge.

Unveiled in November 2017, the Tesla Semi is powered by three electric motors mounted on the rear axles, with Musk previously claiming the lorry’s drivetrain would have a lifespan of a million miles. Independent suspension should provide a smooth ride, while the driver is positioned in the centre of the cabin with two large screens on either side.

As is the case with most electric vehicles, the Tesla Semi truck features a regenerative braking system, which recovers energy lost when slowing down, topping up the battery and boosting range. Tesla reckons that the system is so effective, the brake pads themselves will never have to be replaced.

Tesla Semi truck performance, range and specs

Tesla says the Semi can accelerate from 0-60mph in 20 seconds when carrying the maximum payload of 36,000kg, though Musk has previously claimed that it’ll do the same sprint in five seconds even with a trailer attached. 

The company says this level of performance will allow drivers to merge safely and keep pace with traffic, and maintain motorway speeds even up steep grades. For example, most lorries only manage 45mph on a 5% gradient, whereas Tesla’s zero-emissions alternative should be capable of 65mph thanks to its greater levels of torque.

Tesla also claims that fully loaded the Semi will be able to travel 300 or 500 miles on a single charge, depending on the model, and uses less than 2kWh per mile on the road. The company has yet to share details about each version’s battery, but Musk stated in an interview last year the Semi will feature a 500kWh battery pack – nearly seven times the size of the battery in a Tesla Model 3 Long Range

As well as the enormous battery, the Tesla Semi’s 'bullet-shaped' nose contributes to a drag coefficient of 0.38cd, making it considerably more aerodynamic than most diesel lorries, which usually register somewhere between 0.65 and 0.70cd. A completely flat floor and side flaps that automatically adjust to the profile of the trailer being towed also help the truck cut through the air as easily as possible. 

Drivers can also add up to 70% range in as little as half an hour from Tesla’s Semi chargers, previously referred to as ‘Megachargers’ – the first of which have been installed near the company’s Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. Exactly what speeds these chargers can reach hasn’t been confirmed, although they’re expected to be several times faster than the latest V3 Tesla Superchargers, which can top up cars like the Tesla Model 3 and Tesla Model Y at speeds of up to 250kW.

Lower running costs are expected to entice buyers away from diesel HGVs, too: Tesla initially estimated that it’ll cost around 91p per mile to operate a Semi – some 25p cheaper than diesel lorries – or as little as 60p in a convery scenario. However, figures for the Tesla will be higher now due to recent increases in energy costs.

Reservations for the Tesla Semi closed earlier this year, and pricing for the electric lorry has now been removed from the company’s website. Previously, the 300-mile version started from $150,000 (nearly £140,000 at the current exchange rate), while the 500-mile was priced at $180,000 (over £160,000 at the time of writing). A Founders Series Semi was also being offered, with a price tag of $200,000 (around £180,000).

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