Tesla Making Progress On Electric Semi, But Model 3 Is Priority Right Now


As usual, Elon Musk took to Twitter the other day with a long-winded list of random information. During his rant, a few fans were able to squeeze in some interesting questions. One of which was regarding the status of Tesla’s electric semi.

Tesla’s Jerome Guillen No Longer Heads Sales & Service…He’s Now In Charge Of “Tesla Semi”

If you don’t know of Tesla’s Jerome Guillen, he was previously the company’s head of sales and service. Awhile back, he took charge of Tesla’s electric semi-truck team.

Guillen came from a freight truck background, as he previously worked for Daimler Trucks North America on Class 8 truck development and headed up the Cascadia Class 8 truck team. Specifically, his team was in partnership with Daimler’s Freightliner and the U.S. Department of Energy to make a SuperTruck with improved fuel efficiency. A few other engineers from that project are now working aside Guillen at Tesla.

A portion of Elon Musk’s master plan includes the company’s venture into electric freight transport. According to Musk, the “Tesla Semi” project is progressing, however, with the Model 3 looming, it obviously takes priority over everything at this point.

The electric semi was part of a reveal of multiple Tesla projects that are either upcoming or underway, including a minibus and a pickup truck. While Tesla always has a plethora of tasks at hand, being that it is now February, and the Model 3 is supposed to appear in only a handful of months, all resources need to be painstakingly focused. However, the electric semi is definitely underway, at some point in the development stage.

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50 Comments on "Tesla Making Progress On Electric Semi, But Model 3 Is Priority Right Now"

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Based on size, weight and utility – hybridization is best for trucking at this time. Taking trucks from 8mpg to 10mpg would be huge. Then make local delivery trucks that do known-radius trips next.

Long haul trucks is ridiculous to consider for all-electric for the next decade.

Plenty of truck market for regional or local delivery as well.

So, I agree that long haul is questionable unless battery swap is the approach.

But regional/local market is still plenty big.

It is nutty to haul around a bunch of batteries and a diesel motor for around town deliveries. Around town is where an battery vehicle really shines, particularly with waiting in traffic, and start and stop driving. No matter what, electricity is likely cheaper per mile, as well as a lower cost to operate for non-energy related costs. Getting 10mpg over 8mpg certainly would save a lot of money. Using 500,000 miles as a truck replacement interval (long haul trucks easily go one million miles), the energy cost to operate an urban delivery truck is: $187,500 @ $3 per gal @ 8mpg $150,000 @ $3 per gal @ 10mpg $120,000 @ $0.12/kWh @ 0.5 miles/kWh $ 60,000 @ $0.06/kWh @ 0.5 miles/kWh The price of diesel will go up. The cost of electricity is stable, and in many markets, available in bulk far cheaper than the national average retail price of $0.12/kWh. I have to be honest; in California, at the current price of diesel, the fifnacial benefit of EV over diesel delivery van is alight, due to the crazy electricity prices. I made the following based on a a long haul truck at 80,000 pounds: HYDROGEN: $1.75 per mile… Read more »

It depends on your priorities.

If you want to greatly reduce the number of people who directly breath in truck exhaust, electrifying local truck traffic in large city centers should be the top priority.

I agree, the batteries aren’t there yet to do long haul. A pickup truck and a van based on the model 3 however, those are guaranteed sellers.

Nicola One has an 18 wheeler tractor that has batteries and a PEM fuel cell. Make that an HTPEM that reforms DME or HPR for real range.


Actually, the truck they displayed had a diesel burning turbine motor.

They wanted everybody to believe it had a hydrogen PEM.

Obviously, it has a boat load of batteries.

The first design was turbine, now it is FC.

Yes, we know what the intended design is.

The fact is that the displayed truck physically had a turbine onboard.

No they did not want to make everyone think it was an FC, the first one they showed was turbine, then a while ago they switched to FC.

Technically it could be done with existing batteries and chargers. According to internet a semi-truck would use about 8 times as much fuel as a normal car. If we put 8 Tesla batteries in the truck we should get about the same range as a Tesla which should give you about 4-5 hours of driving and then it is time for a break according to most countries regulations ( and also according to human physics). Plug in 4 standard Tesla Superchargers (each charging one double battery). After your mandatory break your are ready to go for the next distance. You would not lose very much time by this setup.

Highways are the easiest part for autonomous driving, and when this part is ready the truckdriver could rest during the highway driving and only take care of the local driving around charging/eating stops and pickup/delivery area.

Yep, it’s not exactly rocket science, is it?!

Yea in general I agree with you, however, I wonder if there is any merit to the idea of putting batteries under the tractor (semi) trailers instead of in/under the tractor? That way owners could do battery swaps at every drop off. It seems pretty pie in the sky, but Elon is that type of guy so I’d imagine he’d give it some thought. I can see this type implementation on the small scale at first, with just 1 or 2 tractors in a 50+ fleet. Using it on shorter or consistent runs where range could be in the 6-700 mile range. Drivers can legally only drive about ~800 miles a day, right? In theory they could park/sleep and charge and be ready to go in 3 hours. Except the fact that if they’ve driven their 11 hours, they can’t drive til the next day anyway. Seems like truck stop charging could work. Or it seems that relief Tractors could pick up the trailer and continue the work. FOUND ON THE INTERNET: “Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are limited to 11 cumulative hours driving in a 14-hour period, following a rest period of no less than 10 consecutive hours. Drivers… Read more »

These rules apply to human drivers. I expect Elon wouldn’t enter the semi industry unless it was fully autonomous.

In which case, the “drivers” can go 24/7 and don’t care about spending an hour charging for every hour they spend charging.

The semis would only need to be able to get from one SC to another. Could probably get away with as little as 150 miles of range by then.

You bring up a good point. What if drivers were just along for the ride and could get several 90 minute naps in, in between cities, and then another 90 minutes at Superchargers? If they could get 8 hours overnight and several more hours additional sleep as needed during the day, I don’t see why they couldn’t do 14 hour shifts with meal breaks built in. Shoot, they could even cook and eat while the truck “drives”.

Why? You wouldn’t need a person in the cab at all. If it has a mechanical (or otherwise) it would send that info to some monitoring place, which would then send out a Tesla repair crew.

Exactly. If a human driver can work 11 hours in a 24 hour period. That means at an average of 70mph they can cover 770 miles a day.

A fully autonomous EV semi would only need to average 32mph including charging to top this. If they could drive 70mph, charge at 140mph, and stop every 100 miles (with 10 minutes of overhead) that’s 43mph. So they’d cover over 250 more miles a day.

According to reports I’ve seen online, it’s rare for any trucker to do more than 700 miles in a single day, and the maximum is indeed less than 800 miles, which certainly agrees with the 770 mile maximum you cite. The problem with trying to use autonomous BEV trucks is that would make the necessity to stop for recharging even more of a problem. If you want to exceed the 800 mile per day maximum, then you’d definitely want to use battery swapping. Currently, with the required weight of battery packs for a semi tractor, I don’t think it makes much sense to go more than about 5 hours before swapping. Really large battery packs would cut too much into the amount of freight the rig could haul, and very large battery packs are also very expensive. Of course, battery swap stations are also expensive. There is a reason why nobody is yet using BEV semi tractors for long distance freight hauling, and that is the high price of batteries; an especially high price if you consider the need for replacement every few years, if the truck is kept in constant use. I very seriously doubt Tesla has a magic… Read more »
There really is no advantage to putting the battery pack into the trailer rather than the tractor. The pack could be put into the place now occupied by sleeping/storage space, and without the need for a large diesel engine and its many Rube Goldberg kludge add-ons (such as exhaust system, oil filter/pump, etc. etc.), the cab could be pushed forward and thus not make the entire tractor any longer. The weight limit for tractor-trailer rigs applies to the number of axles, so again shifting the weight from tractor to trailer makes no sense. More importantly, putting the battery pack into the trailer eliminates the primary advantage of a tractor-trailer rig: That any trailer can be matched with any tractor. If you put the battery into the trailer, then trailers are no longer interchangeable. * * * * * For those who have not already read it, here’s my napkin-math (altho extensive) analysis of the practical limits of a semi tractor BEV using current battery tech: BALLPARK FEASIBILITY CASE FOR BEV SEMI TRUCK FACTS & FIGURES A modern diesel semi pulling a load gets 6.5 MPG; therefore uses 0.1538 gallons of diesel per mile 1 gallon of diesel contains 40.7 kWh… Read more »

@Pu-Pu said: “…Typical trucker may drive as much as 600-700 miles in a day, and can legally drive up to 11 hours per day…What we need is a BEV battery pack for our semi tractor which will allow it to pull a load for ~750 miles…”

The 11 hour rule is meant to limit 11 hours of total accumulative driving within a 24hr period…most drivers do not drive 11hrs straight… truckers generally take one ore more break stops along that 11 hour rule.

So consider cutting Pu-Pu’s 750 miles truck battery in half…which translates to ~60min recharge break every 4.5hrs of driving. Although that’s more break interval than is legally required in USA it is more in keeping with real-world break intervals.

An issue though may be autonomous Tesla cargo trucks would eventually put out of work truck drivers.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, CDAVIS.

Yes, aiming for a 5 hour, or 5-1/2 hour, trip would certainly be a great improvement in many ways. Unfortunately that would mandate that the trucker take his lunch break at a pre-designated spot; a battery swap station, or a fast-charge station which would recharge the battery fully in less than 30 minutes. (“Less than” because a few minutes would have to be spent up positioning the truck, plugging in, and unplugging.)

Not at all suggesting that’s a bad idea, but it would reduce flexibility of use of BEV semi tractors, and thus limit the market for such vehicles. Of course, right now there isn’t any market at all, other than use as low-speed “yard trucks”, so arguably that’s not a bad thing.

The law is that each day a driver can drive for 11 hours during a 14 hour period. However, some limit themselves to driving during the day only. A trucker I know is, as he picked up from another, “solar powered”. Let’s simplify and say that: – truck starts fully charged – 11 hours driving – 3 hours charging – Truck can fast charge at 1C Then each day the truck can have the initial charge plus 3 on-the-road full charges = 4 usable packs of charge Miles per usable pack of charge: 750 / 4 = 187.5 miles Usable charge required per pack: 187.5 x 2.4 = 450kWh. Use 80% as buffer + overall usable portion of pack then required pack size is: 562.5kWh Of course there are other cost and practicality issues, such as the fact that in order to allow the truck to run you’d need the charging site available. Given 187.5 miles between charges,it implies 3 trucks could be served per Supersemicharger site. If $300k per Supersemicharger then $100k per site per truck, adding $300k to the truck cost. Then there’s fuel cost and maintenance. If $0.20/kWh and 2.4kWh/mi then it’s $0.48/mile. $0.10/kWh then $0.24/mile. Can’t… Read more »
in the long run, i don’t think that any automobile manufacturer is going to want to maintain multiple propulsion technologies to fill out his product line. this is why fuel cells have attracted so much interest among the major automakers. i was around 3 years old or so, i was sitting in the backseat and my mom was expressing displeasure with the way that my dad was driving (a 1957 pontiac chieftain, btw). as i observed this spectacle, my mind drifted to the idea that it would be cool if you could have cars that drove themselves. i dismissed the idea because, as i envisioned it, it would require putting markers in all of the road to guide the cars. but to make BEVs scaleable across the full range of vehicle platforms, i think that something along that line is what you actually would need. in this case, i think that roads would have to be modified to incorporate power strips to provide for wireless charging as the driver drove his vehicle. the roads would operate in the manner of the induction cooktops: electricity would be provided only where a vehicle was detected. it still sounds like a crazy idea… Read more »
“i think that roads would have to be modified to incorporate power strips to provide for wireless charging as the driver drove his vehicle. the roads would operate in the manner of the induction cooktops: electricity would be provided only where a vehicle was detected.” To be practical, this would require every single highway in the entire nation to be so “electrified” before any short-range BEV could be depended on as a primary transportation vehicle. Otherwise, it would be restricted to local use, so where’s the advantage? We already have BEVs entirely suited to local use. I find it rather noticeable that not one single proponent of on-the-fly charging has ever posted even so much as a “napkin math” analysis of the stupendous cost of installing what would amount to hundreds or thousands of EV chargers for every EV on the road into the national highway system. If any one of those proponents ever did bother to do a cost analysis, they would quickly give up on the idea. If there is any proposal even more impractical and absurd than using “fool cell” cars powered by compressed hydrogen fuel, it’s on-the-fly charging for ordinary passenger cars driving on public roads.… Read more »

the US faces a pretty massive (but unaddressed) infrastructure rebuild task. we’re talking a price tag that would be in the trillion dollar range (we could have used the trillions of dollars that we have wasted in the iraq fiasco). so that would be the opportunity to integrate “on the fly” charging.

by contrast fuel cell does seem much more practical. in the case of fuel cell technology, there actually have been studies done to evaluate economic feasibility models for fuel cells. you may not personally like the results produced by any of these studies but regardless of the direction that is taken with zero-emission vehicle technology, it will require government subsidies to get it going.

As I’m sure you know very well, “no comment”, the only people still making “fool cell” fanboy posts are also serial Tesla bashers, like you. Everyone else has finally realized that both physics and economics make using compressed hydrogen for a mass transportation fuel utterly impractical.

In other words, you’re not really in favor of “fool cell” cars, you’re just pretending to be because it’s part of your anti-PEV (Plug-in EV) propaganda.

Now, if they can figure out how to run fuel cell EVs on a practical renewable fuel, such as synthetic methane, then it will be time to reconsider their practicality.

there are a lot of people who are actually engaged in fuel cell research and development who don’t know what you apparently “know”. for my own part, i think that the ideal would be a FCEV with an expanded battery. the battery would accommodate most local driving scenarios and the fuel cell stack would be used for outlier local driving scenarios and distance driving.

i actually own an electric vehicle and my own preference is PHEV over BEV. so it follows that i would prefer a fuel cell hybrid approach over a BEV. i am also realistic enough to know that a practical FCEV is probably years away, although you apparently already know what will ultimately become of FCEVs.

Embedding induction chargers into highways is completely impractical. Not only would initial expense be some large multiple of the cost of regular maintenance and upkeep of the road, but thereafter every time you have to repave the road there is a huge additional expense to keep the induction charging functional. And imagine the regular maintenance and expense of tens of thousands of miles of induction charging equipment, which every time there is a problem you’d have to shut down a highway lane to fix? It’s absurd.

Long distance electric trucks could be overhead power on the highway, and batteries onboard the truck for getting to and from the highway.

This is actually pretty easy to do. Regen while connected to the overhead power can be used to power other trucks that need it.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Isn’t there supposed another M3 reveal of some sort again also?

Yeah, the end of March I think. Elon tends to favor the equinoxes and the solstices for his announcements and reveals.

Any truth to the rumor that they’ll start issuing robes and candles to attendees?

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous


Bring Your Own Chicken for the sacrifices…..lol


In my latest brain storm I tweeted POTUS that he should get an armored Model S, black of course, Jay will like that, and compare it too the current fleet and see which one is better.

I wonder if the incidents of semi’s smashing into cars will go down. Theoretically it should almost never happen, if they are both Tesla’s, with autopilot engaged.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Sounds like a job for Mythbusters!

Electric trains for long haul, save the trucks for last 100 miles and then electrification is easy.

Good idea Mustang Salad!! You could electrify the current infrastructure fairly easy. However, adding train tracks to improve VOLUME of shipments is hard. Darn… 🙁


BINGO! Spot on! Far more efficient and cost effective. Rail or ship to hub, truck to destination.

Indeed! If there is any form of transportation in the USA that needs to be brought into the 21st century, it’s freight trains. Computerized scheduling, and tracking of individual cars, would do much to decrease transit times.

The railroad tracks themselves also need to be rebuilt to enable high-speed trains.

I find it insane that we’re moving so much freight by long-distance trucking just because just-in-time delivery, and the tax burden of inventory, makes trucking a better economic choice than rail for long-distance shipping.

I’m not normally one to advocate giving tax breaks to Big Business, but perhaps the change in the tax code when they started charging companies for their inventory, is something that needs to be reconsidered.

Alternative fact: Model 3 reservation for sale $10k

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

LMAO……if only they were “Transferable”.

Why not just move long distance freight in the HyperLoop, and use short range HD trucks for the last leg of the trip?

I mean…as long as we’re thinking big…

Hyperloop is certainly an attractive alternative to high-speed rail, but I seriously question the economics of replacing standard railroad with hyperloop everywhere. I think even if it can be made practical (which I certainly hope will happen), I think that’s only going to pay to install a line where traffic is heavy. Ain’t gonna be any Hyperloop line going to Podunk, at least not in the lifetime of this old phart! 🙂

Because it would be way too expensive to use the hyperloop for freight.
Fast freight gets flown, slow freight moves by train and boat because they’re cheap.

Another (Euro) industrial point of view

Good news is that those trucks will cost less than their ICE counterparts in same way as solar roof will cost less than a standard roof and a Model 3 will cost less than a Bolt. Sarcasm off.

No long-winded response needed. The Model 3 should be the priority.

If Tesla tries to do everything, then it will not truly succeed at anything. The Chevy Bolt is already selling well.

I would suggest the pickup truck FIRST then the semi. Of course, all after I get my M3.