Tesla Semi truck: specs, price and on-sale date

Pure-electric Tesla lorry edges closer to full-scale production

Reports have suggested that Tesla boss Elon Musk is preparing to ramp up production of the firm's first commercial vehicle, the Semi truck. The new HGV will offer transport companies an alternative to diesel-powered heavy goods vehicles as focus on lowering emissions grows. 

According to reports, a leaked e-mail from Tesla featuring Musk's calls to start "volume production" of the Semi was confirmed as genuine by the CEO himself on social media. The result was a considerable boost in Tesla's share price as excitement around the project continues to intensify.

Prototypes have been spotted testing in the US, and while a launch late in 2019 had been the initial target, issues with battery production forced Tesla to push back its production date. It's more likely that the truck will come to market either at the end of 2020 or in early 2021.

“There’s not much point in adding product complexity if we don’t have enough batteries; then that’s complexity but without gain,” said Musk at a recent shareholder meeting. “We’re matching the product rollout according to the scaling of battery production; that’s really the main limiting factor.”

The truck is powered by four electric motors – one on each rear wheel – and Musk previously claimed its drivetrain would have a lifespan of a million miles. Independent suspension should provide a smooth ride, with the driver positioned in the centre of the cabin.

As is the case with most electric vehicles, the Tesla Semi truck features a regenerative braking system, which recycles 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 and specs

Back in 2017, Musk claimed that the Tesla Semi would do 0-60mph in five seconds, even when towing a trailer. This is expected to rise to 20 seconds when carrying a payload of 36,000kg.

Meanwhile, the Tesla Semi’s 'bullet-shaped' nose  – as seen on concept versions in our gallery – contributes to a drag coefficient of 0.38cd, making it comfortably 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. This should help top-spec versions of the truck achieve a range of around 500 miles, although it isn’t yet clear what size battery Tesla will need to install in order to reach that benchmark.

Tesla claims another advantage over internal-combustion-engined HGVs is the Semi’s performance uphill: most lorries only manage 45mph on a 5% gradient, whereas Tesla’s offering should be capable of 65mph thanks to its greater levels of torque.

An 80% charge could take as little as half an hour, providing around 400 miles of range from an as-yet-unavailable ‘megacharger’. Full details are yet to be confirmed, although these chargers are expected to be several times faster than the latest 250kW Superchargers currently being rolled out across the Tesla Supercharger network.

Running costs are also expected to entice buyers away from diesel HGVs: it’s estimated that the Tesla Semi will cost around 91p per mile to operate – some 25p cheaper than diesel lorries.

Price and on-sale date

Prices for the entry-level, 300-mile-range Tesla Semi are expected to start from around £113,000, with the company already taking orders. The deposit required is in the region of £15,000.

The 500-mile range version costs an estimated £135,000, while a limited-edition ‘Founders Series’ model will be priced at around £150,000. Full specifications regarding paint colour and interior trim options have yet to be confirmed. Delivery dates will be revealed in due course.