Could The Tesla Semi Disrupt The Trucking Industry?

Tesla Semi


Tesla Semi

The Tesla Semi to be fully revealed on October 26th

If Tesla can overcome some significant obstacles and successfully pull off the pure-electric Tesla Semi, it could be industry changing.

The if is BOLD here for many good reasons.

Where will Tesla manufacture these monstrosities, and at what pace? What happens if there are delays to production and companies are counting on them for fleets? What size battery pack will something like this need and how much will it weigh? Who’s going to maintain and repair these “beasts”? How much will they cost compared to current diesel-powered models?

As with any new venture — and this one is very new — there are many unanswered questions. Leave it to Tesla and CEO Elon Musk to figure out all the answers. The point here is that if the Silicon Valley automaker does make this happen, it will be a sight to see.

Tesla Semi Competitor

Nikola Two – potential Tesla Semi competitor

The goal behind the Tesla Semi is to undercut the operating costs of current semi trucks. It surely costs less to run on electricity than gas, but also, the electric semi should require less maintenance, and may be cheaper to insure. Morgan Stanley analyst, Adam Jonas, believes that operational costs could be 70 percent less than diesel semis.

However, like electric cars, initial costs will surely be significantly more. Although, convincing the trucking industry to factor in operational costs may be an easier sell to the trucking industry than it is to the typical consumer. Many people don’t pay nearly enough attention to ownership costs. They’re just happy to land a cheap deal. Major industries like that of trucking have no choice but to budget and pay particular attention to the bottom line, as well as set their sights on the long term.

Jonas also suggests that Tesla’s electric Semi will have a range of about 200 to 300 miles, which was also reported by Reuters; although a recent tweet by the Tesla CEO would seem to indicate the analysts, if anything, might be undercutting the future Semi’s range.

Tesla CEO drops some hints that all-electric Semi might be more capable than most expect

Still, unless the range is north of 500 or so miles, this points to these trucks being used for regional or local hauling instead of long-distance routes. If Tesla can eventually move to long-hauling, or surprise us next month with the truly unexpected, the truck could be even more disruptive.

This is especially true when considering the automaker’s Autopilot and Full-Self Driving systems. Tesla has spent years compiling information from billions of miles of Autopilot driving.

If these semis can be automated, taking the stress off the drivers, negating the need for long stops or driver changes, and mapping out the best routes, there is incredible potential here – and would also eliminate the need for ranges over ~300 or so miles for long hauls – in that case, only a suitable charging infrastructure is required.  Not to mention the number one goal of eliminating tailpipe emissions from an industry that is one of the prime contributors to global air pollution.

We can only hope that Tesla knocks it out of the park with this venture. Hopefully, we’ll have some more answers after the official unveiling in Hawthorne on Thursday, November 16, 2017.

Source: Teslarati

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36 Comments on "Could The Tesla Semi Disrupt The Trucking Industry?"

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Trucks also have the potential to make battery swaps practical, to effectively massively increase range. Chargers might not even be needed “on the job” if there are regional depots for swaps.
Most of the issues with swaps that arise with personal use, dont really apply with a business.

I could see various Flying ‘J’ and other trucker-style stops doing just this sort of thing. I don’t think the existing Tesla Supercharger network is friendly to 53 foot trailers, based on the dozens I’ve visited. I’m trying to imagine the Duluth, MN and Normal, IL superchargers inside parking ramps with a semi-truck trying to plug in.

No, because the incumbents are already developing electric trucks. Tesla Semi, if it ever comes to market, will just be one of many.

While true, the range is the differentiator, along with charging infrastructure. Tesla isn’t Tesla Motors anymore. Remember that is their secret sauce.

Tesla Semi will not use the Superchargers, they are way too slow for trucks. Truck drivers can’t wait for several hours for the 600 kWh pack to recharge.

They’ll likely use new Superchargers that Musk hinted would have more than 350kW of power. I’m thinking probably at least 0.5MW. That’s plenty for someone to recharge during a bathroom break, especially if the chargers are spaced at less than the maximum ranges needed.

“120 kw not fast enough”.

I don’t see how fast charging is necessary for the initial success of this vehicle. I suspect it will be used initially for urban center deliveries and errands, – and having a 60 kw charger back at the depot (11-12 hour recharge) will be fine.

Trucking companies will have their “Green Eye Shade” accountants all over this vehicle – emotion will rarely enter into the purchase decisions.

The soundness of the vehicle overall will make or break it. That is Tesla’s Gamble:

How will this vehicle be viewed after extensive analysis?

Remember, the law(in the US) says that truckers must have some down-time in order to sleep.

If the truckers time their stops so the arrive at a charge station right at the end of their legal hour limit, they can be sleeping while the semi charges.

If we assume that the trucker sleeps 8 hours, that means we have 8 hours to charge, at that point we only need an 80kW charger, current superchargers have a max of ~150kW, so can charge the semi in only 4 hours.

And next-generation SAE Combo units with 350kW max-power are being tested right now, they should be able to charge a 600kWh semi in 1 hour an 42 minutes.

Tesla has said it’s aiming for full autonomy for its BEV semi tractor. So requirements for drivers — breaks, sleep time, maximum shift length — are intended by Tesla to be irrelevant, which means they are not designing the truck to accommodate that.

Tesla has also said they’re aiming for full autonomy in two years. So even if Tesla does eventually put a BEV semi tractor into production, don’t expect it to come sooner than that.

They could potentially use multiple chargers to charge a single vehicle, perhaps one (or two) on each side.

For a logistics company – Tesla can not only offer vehicles but also 100% of the power they will use – all integrated.

Even if they won’t become the market leader, they have a good change for a strong position.

Tesla is not going to built and run a nationwide system of semi tractor Superchargers. They might well offer to build semi chargers for a fee, wherever a fleet owner wants one installed, but they won’t operate them and they won’t be paying for the electricity.

The business model is going to be far closer to the Tesla Destination Chargers than Supercharger stations.

Just my predictions, not facts, but I don’t have much doubt about it. The economic situation for selling BEV semi tractors to trucking fleet owners is very different than selling Tesla cars to the general public.

A pure electric truck may well be viable for short and mid-range applications.

I tend to think that the fuel cell hybrid that Nicola is developing seems to be the more viable long haul solution. Toyota (for all its misguided obsession with FC passenger cars) may also be on the mark with the FC truck that it has been testing as a port drayage tractor.

Fuel cell vehicles powered by compressed hydrogen will never be practical. That goes double for the trucking industry, which is very sensitive to the price of fuel.

Another Euro point of view

“Could The Tesla Semi Disrupt The Trucking Industry?”


For long haul, huge batteries weight means sizeable reduction in cargo capacity. Also waiting time at chargers is an issue. Battery technology is just not performing well enough yet for this use yet.
For short haul there is quite a lot of competition out there coming from the grown ups so truck companies will likely prefer those more reliable and established contracting partners.

I’ve seen many reports that most shipments are volume limited (as opposed too weight limited).

Is that not the case?

For this, one might be able to find some Truck Scale Logs, Reports, or Records – that show the number of trucks per day that are at Max Load, or at Half or Quarter Load, etc, to get some idea of the ratio of Fully Loaded Truck, versus those that are not, or not even close!

“I’ve seen many reports that most shipments are volume limited (as opposed too weight limited). “Is that not the case?” Quite true. (And having worked for a few weeks in a loading dock unloading semi trailers, I can speak with at least some amount of personal experience.) But we have to ask just how many trucking fleets would spend the money to buy a semi which is limited in this way. Sure, there will be lots of loads that it can pull as well as a diesel semi, because it’s not a full 80,000 lb load. But if the trucking company also handles full loads, then that creates a scheduling limitation; now the trucking company has some semi tractors which can’t be matched to some loads. I’m not saying that no trucking company would buy one. But what I expect to see happen is some cautious buying of a few test vehicles by a few fleets, and everybody else waiting to see how well they work out. I don’t expect to see any trucking company jump in with both feet. Even a single semi tractor is a large investment, and if things don’t work out, then the company will be… Read more »

Refrigerated trucks (Reefers)carrying frozen meat are generally only half volume load. They weigh 80k pounds with a single layer of pallets.

Tesla can’t produce the Model 3 yet. So no, it won’t disrupt the trucking industry.

Are you new to commenting or just really poor at it? This has to be one of the easiest statements ever to prove false.

Tesla has produced and delivered model 3s.

You keep on keeping on. There is no mass production of Model 3s to the public.

Who cares? Model S used to be “not mass produced” a few years ago, then followed by Model X that was also “not mass produced” for quite a while. Model 3 just follows the same beaten path, welcomed as usual by little puny whiners like yourself, Taser. Nothing changes in this world, same old, same old..

“Tesla can’t produce the Model 3 yet.”

I’m sure this will come as a great surprise to all those working at Tesla’s Fremont assembly plant, those working at Tesla Gigafactory 1, and all of Tesla’s Model 3 suppliers.

It’s also going to come as a great surprise to Tesla’s accountants, who are counting the income from Model 3 sales!

😆 😆 😆

Think about the spec differences between the car packs and a power pack. Slightly lower power. But lasts *forever*. What if I took 2 or 4 power packs and attached them to 2 or 4 Model 3 motors?

I would have a vehicle capable of moving freight. (Admittedly the 2 packs and 2 motors would barely have enough power, but with the low end torque of electric, I might be very surprised at the capabilities of the resulting freighter.) Furthermore, the range would be okay (2 packs) to quite serviceable (4 packs). Finally, did I mention the system would last FOREVER?

Seriously, what if Tesla took their experience with tailoring cell and pack specs to their required market role, and applied that to ground freight?

At work, our trucks are not profitable if they run less then 200 000 km a year.
That is mostly long haul transportation.
We don’t do much inner city driving. Usually only for our own organisation. Then normally with Mercedes Sprinter panel vans. It is not profitable to run larger trucks i the city. Just tire wear alone cost a lot.
We also struggle with foreign companies using drivers from the lowest paying countries in Europe.
Transportation is a s***** business, with deadlines that is almost impossible to make, low profit, low wages for the drivers, sometimes bad working conditions and so on.

To add to what you said there:

Average diesel semi tractor annual mileage is about three times as far as the average American car is driven: 45,000 miles (source below).

At that rate, battery packs certainly will not last “forever”!

A fleet operator regards every purchase of a semi tractor as both an investment and an expense, and to maximize the return on that investment/expense, they want to keep the trucks in service for as many hours per day as possible. They don’t want to buy a semi tractor, and then pay all those annual taxes and fees on it, only to have it sit around doing nothing most days!


I love that Tesla is tackling this market.

I expect that like their cars, Tesla will offer different battery size options on the truck. A regional hauler might be happy with 200 mile range and Tesla will offer a lower cost version of the truck within that ballpark.

With Musk’s comments r.e. specs better than anything he’s seen reported, I’d say we can expect a big-battery version of the truck to be rated 350 miles or more.

Yes. Tesla (and Nicola) are ALREADY disrupting the trucking industry. Just the threat of them eating the established manufacturers lunch was enough to push Cumins, and those like them, to start doing their own versions well before they would have. The established OEMs see the writing on the wall that ICE trucks (heavy pollution, high and expensive maintenance) are especially ripe for disruption by EVs (low maintenance, last longer, no pollution, quieter, more torgue, possible battery swapping, not to mention autopilot working MUCH better with fully electric than with complicated ICEs). All of the benefits of EVs add up to a lower bottom line. Trucking is very competitive. They will switch and switch relatively quickly as soon as the EVs get made.
It will start with the regional carriers not just because of the lower ranges, but because they usually, I believe, have bigger fleets. Therefore the savings adds up quicker. Also the routes for the regionals are often the same so automation is even easier for them.
The long haul carriers have a little longer, but not much. The savings that EVs will introduce will overwhelm them eventually.

For the Tesla semis, they aren’t that as big of a concern to trucker jobs as one imagines…As pointed out, this is only a day cab and the entire industry has a tremendous shortage of truck drivers so day cabbers could move to long haulers… Now to the fuel savings…Let’s say this thing has a 500kWh battery…Once you get to your destination, a cheap L2 charger is basically a trickle charge…The new fabled 350KW DCFC are super expensive and there are many times you’re going to want to charge during peak times such as 5pm where electricity is the most expensive, not the super off peak over night rates like with personal EVs…Swappable batteries only make sense in limited applications… The elephant in the room is autonomous; that’s far more appealing then an EV, which can’t even handle the majority of hauls anyways….Huge savings and can be added to ICE trucks and while a single gear EV is easier to make autonomous, it’s not that much harder to do it to an ICE vehicle…Audi/MB/Caddy all offer a level 3 on ICE vehicles and semis with automatic transmissions do exist…While there are some thoughts that an autonomous EV truck could also… Read more »

You need to think bigger. Proterra offers a 500 kW EV bus charger. I see no reason Tesla can’t build something similar to charge BEV semi tractors. Or, if the battery packs are going to be as big as I imagine, even something rather more powerful; perhaps 0.75-1 MW chargers.

Tesla isn’t going to let semi tractors charge at Supercharger stations. Just as with truck stops vs. gas stations, the parking spots for a tractor-trailer rig need to be much larger than they are for a car.

When trucking fleet operators buy a Tesla BEV semi tractor, they will need to buy and install their own BEV semi tractor charger(s).

I believe just about everything you say could happen but that could be why the “payback” will be expensive…At a minimum you need one charger and this most likely not only be cheap, may require some very heavy duty electrical upgrades…Pick a range, we see 250 highlighted often, now with only one charger you could only go half that distance so 125 miles unless you pay for another expensive charger…You’re also paying for the electricity yourself and it could be expensive if you charge at peak times…

Elon will proclaim that Tsemi will drive itself and recharge in minutes….. some time in the future.

And another round of funding.

VW will announce 40 different semi within the next 5 years.


What you said is UNDOUBTEDLY the TRUTH!

Tesla stock price doubling again on the news?

VW can of course claim to be the GREENEST automotive manufacturer in the world, what with over 80 EV concepts and 40 EV Truck Concepts.

Unfortunately of course, the best we’ll have in the states is an 80 mile 2016 EGOLF.

Tesla will be part of the equation, but they won’t do it. The real frontier is driverless cargo pods such as what Sweden is already planning to put on one of their highway routes by 2020.