The Tesla Electric Semi Truck Will Use A Colossal Battery

Tesla Semi

JUN 1 2017 BY EVANNEX 47

Tesla Semi Rendered By Peisert Design

Tesla Semi Rendered By Peisert Design


In April, Elon Musk sent tremors through yet another segment of the transportation industry with a short tweet: “Tesla Semi truck unveil set for September. Team has done an amazing job. Seriously next level.” And the exact date was just announced this weekend. Tesla revealed that the winners of its latest referral program will receive an invitation to attend the Tesla Semi truck unveiling event on September 28th, 2017.

An electric semi truck? Is that even practical? Certainly, the obstacles are enormous. The Knights of the Highway haul tons of cargo over long distances in all weathers. For an electric vehicle (EV) to make a dent in the current diesel fleet, it will need power, long range and durability – and building a viable vehicle isn’t the only challenge. There is no highway charging network suitable for heavy-duty vehicles, and with diesel fuel currently so cheap, there’s little incentive for operators to switch from conventional trucks.

*This article comes to us courtesy of Evannex (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris.

However, anyone who follows the news knows by now the dangers of betting against Elon Musk and his crew, and the trucking industry’s skepticism is tempered with concern for the future.

“A new competitive threat, from a company with previous success in disrupting established industries, is undoubtedly unwelcomed news” to vehicle manufacturers, wrote analyst Michael Baudendistel. Another analyst, Alex Potter, agreed: “Commercial vehicle makers – and their suppliers – would be wise to stymie their laughter and take [this news] seriously.”


Nikola One Electric Semi Truck – Not Linked To Tesla, But This Sure Is One Cool Semi Truck Design

The Tesla truck is no idle threat – it’s a working prototype. During a recent TED Talk, Musk said he had taken a quick test drive around the parking lot, and that the truck “feels like a sports car.” He added that the e-truck will be capable of long hauls, and said he is confident that the cost of operation will be low enough to make it an attractive replacement for legacy diesel trucks.

On Tesla’s recent earnings call, CTO JB Straubel said the Tesla Semi wasn’t especially complicated, technically speaking, and Musk explained that it shares “a lot” of parts with Model 3, including “a bunch” of the new Model 3 electric motors. Neither of them said much about the battery pack such a large vehicle will use, but one thing seems certain. It’s going to be big – perhaps the largest pack ever installed in a production vehicle. The Mother of All Battery Packs. Oh yes, it’s big. [“How big is it?” shouts the audience in unison].


Cummins loss breakdown for diesel semi truck 

Well, there’s been a lively discussion about that (here) at InsideEVs, with writers and commenters doing some “napkin math.” A chart from engine builder Cummins illustrates the various factors that affect the fuel economy of on-road trucks. Together with truckmaker Peterbilt, Cummins has been developing a fuel-efficient SuperTruck that has demonstrated fuel economy of an impressive 10 mpg.

Assuming optimal aerodynamics, rolling resistance, etc. and accounting for the greater efficiency of electric motors, as well as regenerative braking, the envelope engineers estimated that an electric semi would require a 1,200 kWh battery pack to achieve a range of 600 miles. At a cost of $100/kWh, which Tesla hopes to reach soon, that would be a $120,000 battery. According to a 2016 article from AskTheTrucker, the cost of a new diesel-powered tractor starts around $113,000, and annual fuel costs are “easily more than $70,000.”


BYD Motors Electric Buses

Another way to go about estimating the battery size for a Tesla truck would be to look at heavy-duty vehicles already on the market. Electric buses from several manufacturers are running in revenue service in cities around the world (in China, cities are ordering them by the thousand). The biggest have battery packs of around 400 kWh. However, e-buses aren’t directly comparable to trucks – their human cargo is much lighter than the 34,000 pounds that a tandem-axle trailer may carry, and they typically have a range of less than 100 miles.

Tesla won’t be the first company to produce an electric semi truck. In fact, electric Class 8 electric trucks from Orange EV and BYD have been in pilot operation for some time. However, these are terminal trucks (aka hostlers or yard goats), which are used for cargo handling in and around ports and other freight facilities. They haul the same loads as highway trucks, but do not need to have a very long range.

BYD electric truck at 2017 Advanced Clean Transportation Expo

Chinese EV-maker BYD also offers a Class 8 semi truck for on-road use. The BYD T9 has a 188 kWh battery pack, and a stated range of 92 miles. Andy Swanton, Vice President of BYD’s Truck division, told that medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks make up an increasing part of BYD’s commercial vehicle business, and that the company has sold about 150 electric trucks to US customers (the company also sells electric delivery vans to UPS and others). We don’t know if the company has any actual orders for its on-road semi yet – Swanton said only that it is “already in service in China.”

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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47 Comments on "The Tesla Electric Semi Truck Will Use A Colossal Battery"

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10mpg truck seems great. Moving 60,000-80,000 pounds at 9-10mpg is huge volumetric transit. Driving around alone in a 20mpg car and converting to an electric does far less than a trucking fleet going from 6-7mpg up to 9-10mpg – so if hybrid EVSE trucks could be built offering maybe 11-12mpg, even better. However, fleets such as USPS, bus services and taxi are the right solutions for electric transport. Cars which put on 50k to 100k miles a year, such as taxi, should be welcomed first – Uber drivers using Teslas at superchargers daily should be welcomed ahead of casual commuters. High-milers make the most difference. But at an economical thoughtful choice. Fuel costs are one thing but are a minor thing. Moving 80,000 pounds 1000 miles at 10mpg is $200 with $2 diesel and that is a deductible expense. The economics of long haul trucking going ONLY on electricity is crazy – however, hybridization makes sense. Regen braking, battery boost for acceleration (which uses a lot of fuel) and more. A truck with 80kWh on board and a hybrid configuration that could plug in at truck-stops during overnights would be fantastic. No idling – power the cab from socket and… Read more »

And forgot to mention. Costs of fuel is far less than cost of driver. The “real thing” they are going for is not efficient motors – it is autonomous driving so they can ditch the driver who costs far more than fuel. This is a move to replace many jobs, perhaps millions – which is why all the fuss in the marketplace is about autonomous.

“The “real thing” they are going for is not efficient motors – it is autonomous driving”


Yep I kept scratching my head on how Tesla will solve the problem and it’s just obvious. The key is AV’s and from the looks of things Tesla will get there first. Once you are running 24 hours a day charging time is not quite as critical.

He will need another supercharger network just for semi’s.

Isn’t Tesla supposed to demonstrate coast to coast “hands off” trip this summer??

They’ve said the demonstration would be this year. I don’t think they’ve ever been more specific than that, but the Tesla Semi will be revealed in September.

I personally think it’s a bad idea to let a million dollar plus truck and whatever cargo it’s carrying go unattended down a expressway with tens of thousands of other people on it. In that 18 wheeler has one malfunction or a sensor goes bad and it will kill several people with it do to it being a lot heaver then a normal truck.

We also don’t need five million more unemployed people.

Besides in Iceland the gas costs to a truck would quickly out weigh the costs of a driver.

There is no mandatory retirement age for truck drivers. It is likely that the semi driving next to you on the freeway is being piloted by a 90-year-old man. Yes, really.

Autonomous driving doesn’t have to be perfect — it just has to be better than humans. Given the number of accidents from semis because of human error, the bar is pretty low.

Aaron said:

“It is likely that the semi driving next to you on the freeway is being piloted by a 90-year-old man.”

This is a use of the word “likely” with which I am not familiar. 🙄

Wow, where are you getting your facts from Aaron?
The driver in the truck next to yo is “likely” 90 years old?? And even if he was he’d likely be more qualified to operate a motor vehicle than you. Truck drivers have to be certified healthy by a doctor to get behind the wheel.
And then it comes down to incidents involving cars and trucks, over 80 percent are the fault of the automobile driver and that is a fact.
Every material thing in your life was brought to you by a truck driver, show some respect.

Scott, There, you said it and I am glad!!! People do not realize how true what you said is. Give me a SINGLE example of something you own, purchase, consume, use, see, eat or drink that was NOT transported on a truck!!! Let me help you out, there isn’t one! Everything from the food you eat to the car you drive to the house you live in and the clothes you wear could not have gotten to you without trucks and the people that put their lives on the line every time they get behind the wheel of one of them. With all the “4 wheelers” being operated by people too busy texting to drive causing the majority of those accidents. If every single one of us walked off the job, set the air brakes and refused to drive one more mile until we got a little respect, this country would come to a screeching halt within a matter of days, not weeks, not months but days!!! So Scott, you said it, now I’ll say it… show a little respect Aaron!!!!

ETs..are still flying their UFOs..something flying them around..they are much more Advance then We are..I over heard a Alein say..the dann insurance cost to we fly them ourselves

Sorry but fuel costs are more than the driver as are diesel engine costs to buy, run.

But the whole spiel is wrong as they won’t have huge packs but more like 500kwh packs that are swapped every 200-250 miles.

Why is if not electric prices on demand with demand charges, does not work fast charging semi’s or any EV for that matter.

Charge stations will in fact have solar, wind, etc generation along with all the battery packs charging offpeak, lulls in demand and supplying grid power for peak to generate income and have it available for semi’s at a viable price.

So Tesla solves this by expanding SC stations with solar, battery storage and leasing the batteries, electricity by the mile, making a fortune.

Some interesting facts about trucking here.

It is a very cost-concious industry and with small carriers making up the vast majority of trucking services, breaking into their businesses with new $250k+ cabs and electrical infrastructure limits (ie. no Truck Superchargers at this point) will take a good amount of time to actually gain traction. A trucking solution of BEV trucks needs to start with extended-range EVs first due to the lack of TSCs (Truck SuperChargers). Perhaps “down the road” those H2FC extender solutions would work out for trucking while autos go only BEV. The power demands of trucks is huge and the infrastructure is very limited along with a very tight economic balance sheet for trucking firms trying to pay a very blue-collar wage in a commodity-service business (ie. lowest cost provider gets the trucking jobs).


IMO Tesla’s semi will be pure electric. No range extender.

Tesla will offer free supercharging. They have to. Nikola one is offering free hydrogen:


georgeS said:

“Tesla will offer free supercharging. They have to.”

Tesla may well set up a semi tractor-scaled Supercharger, or even temporarily a few of them to demonstrate recharging on a long route, but there’s no way Tesla is gonna pay for all the electricity used by a commercial trucking fleet. The cost/benefit analysis just doesn’t make sense.

Comparisons with Nikola are pointless. Nikola does not have a viable business plan, and won’t be in business long. Tesla is a real business. Contrariwise, Nikola is at best a triumph of wishful thinking over practicality, like (Project) Better Place; and it may well be a sham like Faraday Future.

You could charge the trucks with solar. You would just need about 1200 panels per truck charged, lol.

No, but you can put quite a few panels on top of a semi. It’s a good ideal.

Drayage – short range hauling from warehouse to retail store or rail depot to warehouse – is a huge part of the trucking industry. Most long haul has gone to trains. This is a good place to start for EV semi tractors.

Daimler trucking is developing an Urban-E EV semi tractor after they got a lot of positive feedback at a trade show. Daimler owns 5 brands including Freightliner and Fuso.

Deutsche Post (DHL) in Germany is already making their own EV delivery trucks after all the local auto cos. like VW told them no-way. They will be selling them to other delivery cos.

The fuel costs mentioned in the article here at $70K/year can justify a lot of batteries.

In Europe a lorry og bus driver may not drive more than 4½hour before having a 45 minutes break. Either that or having a 1/4 hour break during the 4½hours and then 1/2 hour break. There is no way you can drive 600 miles in that time. Consider you lucky if you can drive 300 miles in 4½ hours. The drivers do not dare breaking those rules because their driving license will be suspended if caught and the car register when you are driving.

You can do a lot of recharging in 45 minutes. Therefore I think the tractor can do with a smaller battery that 1.2GWh. Something like 600kWh will do for many uses.

+ 1

Also here in Europe fuel costs are a lot more than in the US, $2 diesel hasn’t existed for decades ! Try $7 Diesel here in the UK and other parts of Europe and these things make a lot of sense.

The US fuel prices are because of massive subsidies the government gives to the oil companies. We would be closer to European pricing if the subsidies went away.

Why is that? Euro pricing of fuel is heavily based on taxation on top of the petrol distribution price. About 70-80% of the price is taxation. Pays for health care and all the other goodies.

No direct subsidies to Big Oil, but certainly some tax breaks.

The stupendously large indirect subsidy is using the U.S. military to protect Big Oil’s supply line from overseas, and to protect our Mideastern allies who sell us oil. If that price was paid for by Big Oil, and reflected in much higher pump prices for gasoline/diesel, then we would have absolutely no need for any subsidies for EVs, and we would have switched almost all gasmobiles over to EVs generations ago.

That is just the military costs of about $200mm/yr.
But the pollution costs/subsidy is around $200B too for oil with a lot of the worst pollution that hurts people is diesel.

Diesel in my part of the UK is £1.18 per litre or $5.75 per US gallon.

£1.18 per litre x 4.54 Ltrs to gallon = £5.36p pg X $1.29 to the pound = $6.92c.

U.S. Gallon is 128 oz (3.79 liters). U.K. gallon is 160 oz (4.54 liters).

One must look a few years ahead – when the automobile and transport industry really moves from gas/diesel to EVs then electricity will surely be taxed in a similar way as fossil fuels are today.

You can’t seriously think that governments will lose all that fossil fuel tax money and keep electricity taxation as “low” as it is today.

Short term there’s good savings to be made from moving to EVs but long term it won’t be so pretty. Of course environmental aspect is a different story…

The future battery solution would probably be solved by using the floor space underneath the trailer where there would be 53 feet long by 8 feet wide of possibilities.

The tr

Absolutely not. Trucking fleets maintain multiple trailers for every tractor, and trailers are cheap.

There’s no good reason to put a battery pack into the trailer, with the possible exception of a “reefer” (refrigerated trailer) which may need its own power supply.

Remove the large diesel engine (and its accessories), the transmission, the fuel tanks etc. from the semi tractor, and there’s plenty of room for a huge battery pack.

I do want this Tesla semi to work in that a lot of inner cities are heavy polluted by truck smog. Also a lot of trucking companies have gone under due to heavy fuel prices.

I want all truck makers to make EV trucks just like I want all car makers to make EVs. I don’t see how one vendor doing this will ever work out. With a blanket spread of interest in this (whether hybrid, EREV or BEV) trucks – it must be supported by a massive public infrastructure build-out. Good for growth of whatever drives it – and is the eventual need – due to the fact that oil will eventually run out.

Go Mack, Go Kenworth, Go Volvo, Go Freightliner, Go BYD, Go Tesla. All or nothing.

Don’t forget RVs too. And they plug-in while at destinations as well – they could utilize EREV tech on top of Freightliner chassis.

That’s a lot of heavy full cycling on the battery. I wonder what the usable service mileage will be. If you have to replace the pack too often, that kills the savings.

“That’s a lot of heavy full cycling on the battery. I wonder what the usable service mileage will be”


I don’t have the link but I think I saw an article that said Tesla’s batteries were good for 2000 cycles.
At 600 miles per cycle that’s 1.2 million miles.

The average long distance heavy truck gets heavy use. If the battery pack gets cycled 6 times per week, then 2000 cycles will get used up in 6.4 years.

The battery replacement cost is almost certainly the reason why we have not yet seen large trucking fleets such as UPS, FedEx and Wal*Mart switch over to BEV trucks. Battery prices are going to have to come down some more, or longevity will have to go up, before the cost/benefit analysis shows an advantage for BEV trucks.

A recent comment here on InsideEVs claimed that the Gigafactory’s new battery chemistry gives the 2170 cells twice the lifespan. I hope that’s true! If so, that should be enough to tip the scale in favor of BEV heavy trucks.

the average roof of a trailer on a Semi truck will generate about 8000 watts or 8kw of electricity in optimal sunlight if it were covered in solar panels, which would be enough to provide a decent charge to the battery 🙂

I would not be surprised that it will be an option on the Tesla truck, considering their buyout of Solar city.

8 kW is not enough to cover the consumption of a semi truck. a Truck needs more than 20 times that to keep a highway cruising speed.

In a very similar fashion to having solar panels on cars, having solar panels on trucks doesn’t make enough difference in range to justify the cost, the weight and the technical complexity of installing them.

Also let’s not forget that trucks must be usable regardless of the weather or the shade over the roads.
So you cannot rely on the extended range from vehicle-mounted solar panels : you need the big battery and the ultra-fast charger anyways.

You’ll get a much better deal by installing these panels on the roof of your trucking offices and selling the electricity to the grid.

K-lein said:

“8 kW is not enough to cover the consumption of a semi truck. a Truck needs more than 20 times that to keep a highway cruising speed.”

Thank you for that reality check. The fallacy that rooftop solar cells could provide a significant fraction of what a vehicle needs at highway speed — either a car or a truck — is something that unfortunately comes up quite often from those who have never bother to do the appropriate “napkin math”.

Nor is any trucking company going to pay to put solar cells on top of its trailers. Trailers are meant to be cheap and interchangeable, and most trucking companies have multiple semi trailers per tractor. That means no battery packs underneath, and no solar cells on the roof.

i would also be interested in getting one of these as a daily driver! 😀 lol

i mean 500-600 miles of range tons of room in the cab, could tow anything if i wanted, and a CDL isn’t required if its for personal use…!

Well, reading that was disappointing. Sure, we “napkin math” armchair engineers figure on a humongous battery pack. In fact, my own “napkin math 1.0” quoted in previous discussions says 1800 kWh, not the 1200 cited in the article.

But I see nothing to suggest Elon, or anyone at Tesla, has confirmed a huge battery pack. Tesla may be aiming for a strategy of battery pack swapping, or multiple stops for en-route charging, or even something really out of the box. One InsideEVs comment even suggested they might use a metal-air fuel cell (or “battery”).

With a straightforward approach to long-distance trucking, certainly Tesla will need a very large battery pack. But Tesla might just be thinking outside the box!

Is $100 / kWh a pack price goal, or cell price goal? The cost theories are a little loose here. We also know more: Tesla is going to be using the Model III motors on each axle. What we do not know is the horsepower of that motor. It is my theory that Tesla will be offering a battery leasing program that includes battery swapping services in the lease price. At commercial electricity rates, a 1200 kWh battery can be charged for perhaps $115 (assuming a certain efficiency loss here). That nets out to $0.19 per mile for electricity. At 9 mpg (yes, Cummins has a new model that is 10 mpg, theoretically), that 600-mile diesel tank costs (at $2.50 / gallon) $167 to drive the same distance. This doesn’t jive with the 90% energy / fuel savings touted by OrangeEV with their terminal truck EVs. If Tesla does a battery swap and battery lease program by the battery charge, then the price of $167 per battery (swap) will do it. At 200 battery swaps per year (125,000 miles per year), that nets $10,400 per year per vehicle to Tesla in surplus of the electricity costs. That kind of revenue… Read more »

“An EV eliminates the engine for sure. I don’t know if it will eliminate the transmission, but I would hope that Tesla technologies like torque idling and a single speed gear box would get there.”

Modern AC motors used in EVs develop high torque from a standing start, so I would think there would be no need for the truck to have a transmission (that’s “gearbox” to you Europeans). So long as the drivetrain is robust enough to handle the load, a BEV semi tractor should be able to use a fixed gear ratio gearbox (that’s “transmission” to you Europeans) just as easily as BEV passenger cars do.

However, I’m not an automotive engineer, so it’s possible my guess on this subject could be wrong.

This truck would be a smash hit in europe.

evtv Tesla/VW pickup maiden voyage:

I can’t see how a semi payload of 34000 lbs can be right…My F250 is licensed/rated to GVWR of 34,000 pounds, and while that’s the weight of the trailer and truck too, so my payload is really only about 22,000 pounds, why on earth would you go to a big rig for only another 6 tons, when a 550 pickup can pull practically the same? Where does that number come from?

That number comes from someone that doesn’t know what they are talking about. I own a 2017 Kenworth T680 and truck, trailer and freight has to be 80,000 lbs or less without an overweight permit, but just to keep it at or under 80,000 lbs, subtract the weight of the tractor at about 20,000 lbs, the weight of the trailer at about 10,000 lbs, the weight of fuel and anything carried in the truck including the driver and most trucks payload capacity is about 45,000 lbs. Some can haul a bit more, like Volvo because the truck weighs about 2,500 lbs less, other things can increase payload capacity a bit like carrying less fuel on board (200 gallons at 7.1 lbs per gallon for diesel).

600 miles would be nice but it probably does not make sense due to payload losses. 1200 kWh battery has 6 ton weight, therefore it is probably too big waste in payload capacity.

It think that cost optimum will be around 200 miles. That is, 150 miles driving then having 30-45 min supercharging break.

Remember that Tesla semi will be semi-autonomous. That is that Driver does not need to pay attention on highway but it can do other work with computer and phone. Therefore, it does not matter if electric trucks are slower than comparable Diesel trucks.