High-volume production of the Tesla Semi hasn’t even started yet, but a Chinese doppelganger appears to have already emerged. A Tesla owner spotted the Semi lookalike on a freeway in China – the camouflaged test mule lay on a trailer flatbed, apparently in transit for summer testing.
A Twitter user shared the clip, in which the narrator mentions that the electric semi-truck was on its way from Hefei, a city in China’s central-eastern Anhui province, to Turpan in the Xinjiang province.
It is possible that the truck belongs to Chinese automaker JAC Motors, which manufactures passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and EVs. The company has multiple factories in Heifei as per Google Maps.
At first glance, the camouflaged truck seems nearly identical to the Tesla Semi. But scan it closely and you’ll notice the absence of the signature wraparound glass and lack of wing mirrors. The Chinese knockoff even has digital camera housings above the windows.
When Tesla first showcased the Semi, it had camera-based wing mirrors, but they were placed at the rear of the cab, unlike the ones we see on its knockoff. Last year, the Austin-based brand dropped the digital mirrors for traditional wing mirrors.
The Tweet suggests that the Chinese truck could have vision-based advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Although it could also have radar. A square cut-out that appears to house radar sensors is seen in the video. Moreover, it has a glass roof, unlike the Semi.
The rest of the exterior design appears strikingly similar to the Tesla. The cab-forward stance with a sloping front fascia, the wheel design, and even the lower air intake looks identical. The driver-focused interior appears heavily inspired by the Semi as well. It gets a central driving position, two big screens on either side and a passenger seat on the rear right side.
In the second Tweet embedded above, a similar JAC truck is seen, albeit with different visual elements. Its mirrors, wipers, and front section are visibly different from the camouflaged prototype. Its location translates to "Heavy Vehicle Branch of Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Co., Ltd, Hefei."
It’s not the first time that we’re seeing a Tesla Semi-double. In 2019, California-startup Neuron EV showcased two electric vehicle concepts with Tesla design cues.
Design similarities often invite legal troubles, as was the case between Tesla and Nikola – the latter alleged that the Elon Musk-led brand was involved in patent infringement with respect to the Semi's design. But Nikola dropped the $2 billion lawsuit last year.
Deliveries for the Tesla Semi started in December 2022, with initial batches going to Pepsico and its subsidiary Frito-lay. Mass production is unlikely to begin until late 2024.