Elon Musk unveils the long range Tesla Semi electric truck

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Source: Tesla

Source: Tesla

US electric vehicle and battery giant Tesla has unveiled its electric truck concept, the Tesla Semi, at the company’s design studio in California on Thursday night (US time).

The reveal – which was live-streamed on the company’s website – has been well hyped, particularly by Tesla founder CEO Elon Musk, who had Tweeted on Monday that it would “blow your mind clear out of your skull.”

We’re not sure that that happened, but here are the key details: It will deliver savings of $US200,000 over diesel trucks over a million miles (1.6 million kms) and will have a range of 500 miles (800kms), far beyond its competitors. It will use less than two kilowatt-hours of energy per mile.

Source: Tesla

Source: Tesla

And it can perform. It can go from 0 to 100kmh in five seconds without cargo, or reach 100kmh in 20 seconds at the maximum weight allowed on US.

It can climb 5 per cent grades at a steady 110kmh, and requires no shifting or clutching for smooth acceleration and deceleration, and its regenerative braking recovers 98 per cent of kinetic energy to the battery, giving it a basically infinite brake life.

“I can drive this thing and I have no idea how to drive a semi,” Musk said.

Of course, Tesla is not the only company working to roll out electric trucks.

Cummins, a leading US maker of diesel and natural gas engines for commercial trucks, unveiled a Class 7 truck cab in late August, featuring an advanced 140kWh battery pack that it will sell to bus operators and commercial truck fleets starting in 2019.

And Canada’s largest retailer, Loblaw, unveiled a 53 foot, fully electric class 8 BYD electric truck at the start of the month – the first in a transition of its company-owned fleet to EVs.

But Tesla, is Tesla.

And as Giles Parkinson wrote here, the Tesla Semi stands to do to the massive global road freight industry what the Model S, 3 and X will do – already are doing – to petrol cars; and what the Spacex program did to the space industry; and what the Tesla battery storage devices and the solar tile might do to the utilities and roofing industries respectively.

In the case of the Tesla Semi, however, this disruption could mainly be due to the cost: Morgan Stanley has said the Tesla Semi could be 70 per cent cheaper to operate than a diesel-powered truck and Musk reinforced this point, that it would be “economic suicide” to continue driving diesel trucks.

Here’s what we know about the Tesla Semi:

More aerodynamic than a Bugatti Chiron

A post shared by Tesla (@teslamotors) on

* It will be a fully electric “Class 8 truck,” the largest heavy duty freight trucks.

*It will have a 200kWh battery pack. “The point of doing this is to give a hardcore smackdown to internal combustion cars,” Musk said.

* Musk has confirmed it will have a range of up to 800km (500 miles) on a single charge, and will be able to add 400 miles (643km) of range in 30 minutes of charging. “By the time you are done with your break, the truck is ready to go. You will not be waiting for your truck to charge,” he said.

*The trucks will be charged via specialised “megachargers” which will generate the energy required to charge the battery via solar panels. “Your truck is running on sunlight,” said Musk.

*Tesla is guaranteeing the drive train for 1 million miles, and the brake pads will have “quasi-infinite” lifespan with regenerative braking that also features in Tesla’s cars.

*The Semi will have an average cost of $1.26/mile versus $1.51/mile for diesel truck.

*Customers can pay a $US5,000 reservation fee now for a Semi, with production set to begin in 2019.

*The Semi shares a number of parts with Tesla’s mass-market passenger vehicle the Model 3, including the same motor – although there are four of them in the Semi – and the same door handles.

*It can travel from zero to 100km per hour in five seconds, or 20 seconds with a load of 36 tonnes (80,000 pounds). Top speed is over 250 miles (400km/h).

*The Semi’s cabin has a centred drivers seat, four seats in total.

*The Tesla semi also has the company’s autopilot advanced driver assistance system found in the electric passenger vehicles.

*The cab has two touchscreen displays positioned on either side of the driver, and built-in connectivity that integrates directly with a fleet’s management system, to support scheduling and remote monitoring.  

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  • Ren Stimpy

    Plenty of flat space up on top of the trailer for solar panels too.

    • Chris Marshalk

      Future looks great. Cost of goods & services should be cheaper with semi

  • Joe

    Just wondering if the Elon’s semi is loaded up with those ‘on order’ Powerwall 2.0 that are to be installed in Aussie homes.

    • Miles Harding

      No,No, they’re under the floor!!

      Domestic Poweralls seem to have been out-prioritised by other big batteries (I believe the one in SA uses LG cells) and the likes of storm recovery in the Dominican Republic.

  • aussiearnie

    The beginning of the end of the diesel rebate?

  • DJR96

    This (and electric cars) will question why we persisted with fossil fuel powered vehicles for so long. It makes them look plain stupid.

    • stucrmnx120fshwf

      With an 800 km range, half hour charging, a million kms before major maintenance, people in the future, will wonder why we didn’t shift, our capital and research to electric vehicles earlier. And the noise reduction, we’re all sick and tired of the diesel fumes, but trucks make so much noise, thumping, building penetrating, low frequency noise, the air brakes are even worse.

      • daroiD8ungais7

        “a million kms before major maintenance” Where did you pull that from?!

        • stucrmnx120fshwf

          The article said that the trucks would last for a million kilometers, I assume that means just parts replacement, using electronic and sheduled maintenance. Electric cars are much the same, electric vehicles require 1/10 th, of the maintenance of explosion based vehicles, even an explosion based vehicle, would only require, in a new vehicle, major maintenance every 100,000 kms. This is why the resale value on electric vehicles, is so much higher, they’re not wrecked in a decade, if you use them a lot, they have 25 times less moving parts, with a tiny fraction of the vibration. Lots of moving parts, with hammering (literally, we’re talking about millions, of detonations a year, in the cylinders,) vibration, is a recipe for expensive maintenance.

          • daroiD8ungais7

            You make some good points about the explosion based vehicle.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            The downside is that mechanics jobs, like driver jobs, with self driving vehicles go, in Tony Seba’s Clean Disruption scenario, we have a roaring twenties, replacing the vehicles. Installing solar panels, building high rise farms, but what happens when market saturation hits, the jobs for production and construction go. Mechanics, Drivers out of a job, high rise farms capital intensive, robotics and software, artificial intelligence, that’s where the Grand Depression comes into the picture. So we better have instituted basic minimum income, economic depressions are so little fun, that they’re said, to be the reason for the last World War.

          • Daniel

            Your right about the jobs. In the end clean tech is improving the efficiency of the economy with the end of oil/coal/gas industry, while replacing it with renewable that last decades that use no fuel.

            Driverless cars and trucks will mean millions more will be out of work with almost no replacement industry. Who knows how long, but it will happen. On top of this we have machine learning attempting to automate most of the service industry….

            I hope some smart economists are working on this….

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            The capital phase, roaring twenties, will be big, sovereign wealth management, like Norway. A basic minimum income, with means testing, would put a floor, a safety net on consumer spending. Not a big stretch, it replaces, pensions, unemployment benefits, disability benefits. Minimum taxes that cannot be cheated, sorry minimised, through highly paid tax lawyers. It would be easy, in 2030 I think, we could have 25 times, as much energy available, as we now have. Due to cheap solar power, when the replacement electric vehicles, have all been bought. The high rise farming buildings, have been built, the solid state photovoltaic systems, batteries, hydro electric storage, liquid hydrogen.

            Then we need to deploy those resources, to the majority of the population, with cheap power, food and transport. Reverse taxes, in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s 2000’s and 2010, have prevented the Grand Depression so far, with unemployment benefits, disability benefits, pensions. We haven’t let the oil dependency, 45 year great stagnation, in the developed world tear us to pieces.

            So a surge of capital, followed by market saturation, doesn’t need to destroy us. We could also defray market saturation, with an age of exploration, in space, with vast solar power and resources.

      • Carl Raymond S

        Needed cheap lithium ion cells, and cheap solar/wind (the numbers are based on the trucks charging at 7c/kWh). The tipping point has only just been crossed.

      • My_Oath

        “a million kms before major maintenance,”

        No – Its a million without a complete breakdown – and that is defined as ‘sitting on the side of the road with at least 3 of the 4 electric motors out of service’.

        They still need maintenance.

        • stucrmnx120fshwf

          I said major maintenance, if you did no maintenance at all, I bet it would break down, at 100,000 kms. But doing regular and indicated by sensor maintenance, it would last for a million kilometres, before being unwise to continue, without major maintenance. Replacement electric motors, batteries, drive trains, where it might not be worth, the money.

          • My_Oath

            I know what you said, and it doesn’t align with what Tesla said. They do not say ‘a million miles before major maintenance’. The only mention of that distance is with respect to breakdown.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            Whatever, an electric vehicle, requires 1/10the of the maintenance of an internal combustion engine, or explosive propulsion based system. A million kilometres is a long distance, people have restored cars, that have done huge distances, by doing major maintenance. A vehicle can last forever I’d you keep on replacing the parts, including the body. Not bothered about the semantics, but the resale on an electric vehicle, is far higher, because it wears out vastly more slowly.

          • My_Oath

            Apology accepted.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            Sorry for my sinning padre, how could I do such a thing, not reflexively agreeing with you.

          • My_Oath

            Not reflexively agreeing with me wasn’t the issue. It was making a mistake, then upon having it pointed out doubling down before finally attempting to divert it with a flippant ‘whatever’.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            Minor, normal and major are different words, in relation to maintenance, my dearest pedantic, major doesn’t actually mean minor, most people understand this.

          • My_Oath

            ‘Breakdown’ and ‘maintenance’ are different words too, which is the actual issue here, not your obfuscated attempts to talk about major and minor.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            Do people often tell you to stop talking, this is very boring, I’m actually interested in Clean Disruption, Electric Vehicles, Solar Power, not your problems with language, so is everyone else on this site. Aren’t you interested in aircraft using liquid hydrogen, concentrated cooled high and low frequency solar power at 40% efficiency, do you actually know anything about renewables. High Speed Railways, Space X’s Falcon Heavy, anything to do with the future, infrastructure, self driving vehicles, what are you a spell checker, a grammar checker, there’s more to life. Go and read Tony Seba’s Clean Disruption, think about how 1/4 of Australia’s desert, can make a trillion tonnes of liquid hydrogen, from solar power. Think about how the last roaring twenties were, the second industrial revolution, in the context of the third industrial revolution.

            Don’t reply unless you have something interesting to say, this is a waste of my time and everyone else’s, on this site.

    • Brunel

      Even electric cars are not saintly. Far better to build cycleways. Look how fat people are these days.

      • mick

        brisbane to sydney would be a loong ride

        • Brunel

          You could have something almost as ridiculous: Can not carry a shipping container on a bicycle. Because every car carries cargo?

          And everyone drives from one state to another 5 days per week?

          • mick

            true,yep humans and parcel and fair enough

  • Steve159

    live stream — 500 miles range, at highway speed 65 mph, at full GVW (maximum load). As Musk says, that’s the worst case scenario

    65mph up a 5% grade, versus diesel at 45mph max..

    0-60mph fully loaded 20 seconds.
    0-60mph rig only 5 seconds


    • Ren Stimpy

      It calls for a remake of the classic – Smokey And The eBandit.

      • Michael Murray

        Or Duel.

    • Steven Gannon

      Long range trucks in Oz are B-doubles or high tonnage. To get market share here we need bigger power units in these trucks for long hauls. Trucks doing the Hume, Pacific or Newell highways will get a few km’s further down the road before each rest stop with the extra torque, another efficiency gain. Drivers will be less fatigued too.

  • William

    Nice one Tesla.

    Wonder what the Road Authority would charge in additional registration fees to offset the fuel excise that would be forgone.

    • Steve Woots

      most sensibly, a weight/distance charge.
      Given that a portion of the diesel cost would have been going overseas, and can now go to a local electricity generator – interesting to see how much better for the economy that is.

      • stucrmnx120fshwf

        The taxes are necessary, due to the road vibration damage, that diesel (explosion based, air braking,) engines do to the asphalt, roads are massively subsidized by governments, compared to rail, hence the increasing use of Tolls.

        • Steve Woots

          No question, they should pay their share. I’m not sure how much damage is due to the diesel engine vs the weight of the vehicle. We can but wait and see if someone will do a comparison.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            Even though there’s 18 wide wheels, to distribute the load, 36 tonnes is a lot of load, over the surface, half a tonne per wheel, still the low frequency, penetrating, earthquake like vibration, of a tonne of diesel engine, might do a lot of damage.

    • MaxG

      It’s the next thing the LNP will come up with…

  • Ryan

    How can it do 400kmph? Surely a misprint?

    • Richard T

      Thats the roadster. This article confuses some of the roadster specs with the truck specs. I think the following comment is about the roadster not the truck…*It will have a 200kWh battery pack. “The point of doing this is to give a hardcore smackdown to internal combustion cars,” Musk said.

      • Ryan

        Thanks. Still seems rather fast even for a car. Not sure that 400kmh top speed would be very usable for most people.

        • Chris Marshalk

          For me, It’s usable getting away from the cops. 😉

          • Ren Stimpy

            Yeah until the cops start using them too…

        • stucrmnx120fshwf

          People have asked for acceleration limiters, hence the smooth ride feature, recently offered, I once heard of a German aluminum car (Tesla’s cars, are made of aluminum,) that could do 400 kms/h, but where else than an autobarn could you drive it. A car crash, would be like a plane crash.

          • Tom

            Or like a train crash in Germany or Japan.

    • Miles Harding

      Confusion here??
      What they probably meant was that a MegaCharger could add 400km of range every hour. (i.e. a charging rate of 400km/h)

  • JohnM

    Never mind the semi, -check the new roadster!
    0-100 in 1,9 secs, 1,000 km range 250+ mph.
    Looks nice too…. just a bit sexy.

  • Ian

    Next we need to see a Tesla container ship.

  • brucelee

    200kwh listed in your article was the roadster not the truck wasn’t it?

    • Tom

      The article said “under 2kWh per mile” and “a range of 500 miles” – that sounds like it needs around (under) 1000kWh of battery. 200kWh is only 0.4kWh/mile, and this doesn’t sound right.

      • Miles Harding

        That’s what I estimated. Would also explain why he is calling the new chargers ‘Mega chargers’ – more than 1MW.

    • Miles Harding


  • Robert Comerford

    A small point not really mentioned. By putting the driver in the centre they have made a truck suitable for both left and right hand drive roads.

  • Alex

    There is one huge benefit with the electrification of the transport industry that doesn’t seem to have been taken up politically, and that is independence from Middle Eastern oil suppliers. Presently, if an unnamed eastern power wanted to paralyse Australia they could block oil from the ME and we would be effectively screwed within weeks. With solar grids and electric vehicles, this wouldn’t be an issue. And our reasons for having wars over there, and encouraging terrorism, would disappear.

    • Ana Thema

      So much this.

  • Radbug

    Newton’s First Law: (almost) all the energy is expended getting the object up to cruising speed. That’s the reason for the massive battery pack. Which plays right into rail’s strong suit. All rail needs is a length of third rail. The battery pack is trackside, as is the supercapacitor & PV array that energises it. The rolling resistance is overcome by an alkaline fuel cell stack (featuring a layered double hydroxide, high pH resistant, anion exchange membrane), fuelled by an onboard tank of methanol.

    • Ian

      Rail’s big issue is drag from wind turbulence. 25% drag reduction can be achieved by streamilining a truck like is shown in the picture. A large percentage is due to underbody, wheel and side turbulence along the truck and between trailers. This can easily be addressed on a train.

      Earlier this year Energex requested submissions/comments regarding another interconnector from SA. One idea that was put forward for consideration was to follow the rail line from Crystal Brook/Pt Augusta through to the interconnection point near Canberra. That would then allow the electrification of that line and the connection of multiple solar and wind facilities. Likewise the inland rail route could do the same. I haven’t heard anything more on the subject.

      Imagine what an electrified line to Perth could achieve!

  • Phil

    I see lot’s of disruption and “value adds” here
    These are just a few …….

    1) The trailers attached to the Semi can accommodate solar panels on the roof to extend the driving range.

    2) Tesla can control the prices of their charging stations offering fixed priced contracts to ANY size fleet anywhere

    3) Tesla can turn presently unused warehouse roof space into solar supercharging stations. Charge up while you unload and load

    • stucrmnx120fshwf

      Maybe that’s why Walmart have ordered 15 of them already, their roof surface area and freight demand, would be huge.

    • George Darroch

      The solar panels would be energy and cost negative. They don’t make sense on this vehicle.

    • My_Oath

      “1) The trailers attached to the Semi can accommodate solar panels on the roof to extend the driving range.”

      Extend the driving range by about 500 metres perhaps – because physics. The sun only shines so hard. The solar panels only covert a % of that sunlight. And flat panels that are not orientated perpendicular to the sun convert even less.

  • Steven Gannon

    15 Tonne is good, that’ll cover a good % but getting to B-double level means turning out units that can pull up to triple these babies. In Australia we will need electric B-doubles before long that use purposefully developed auto-pilot for our inland roads, or maybe electric cargo trains to get more trucks off the road for some highways.

    If the saving is ~20%/km, they’ll appear fairly fast.

    • stucrmnx120fshwf

      The article said 36 tons and that’s with the ability to go up hills, on the flat of the Nullabor Plains, that’d be a lot more, but your right, multiple drive trains, like an electric railway train, distributes the forces better. Out in the desert, land is cheap and there’s little cloudy weather, for solar panels and megachargers.

      • mick

        i haven’t noticed many singles on the nullabor probably more economic to use doubles and triples

        • Miles Harding

          Better still would be to rail it across or not send it at all.

          A few years back there was an amusing story around a flood that cut the highway. There were trucks of apples going east and west stopped by the flood. Perhaps it wasn’t necessary to send any apples across.

          • mick

            ive seen oranges go from wa wheatbelt to riverina 3 months ago go figure? 20 years ago it was cheaper to throw 44s in the ute and drive to adelaide- tarcoola return than to use the rail

      • Steven Gannon

        Hi, I’m not too embarrassed to admit I have ADD, which sometimes does lead to embarrassing situations. The inland trucks can go electric for sure in that case.

    • Phil

      If they are using 4 X series 3 motors that’s Approx 4 x 258hp (or 4 x 192kw ) Over 1000 HP. TOTAL And should be around 1000 pounds of torque per motor

      That torque is low. But i think because there are 4 motors you can multiply by 4 to compare with 1 diesel motor for torque same as horsepower total.

      That is far more than ANY prime mover made today i am aware of.

      And that would confirm their claims of being able to do 65 MPH up a 5% gradient . Whereas the most powerful semi truck can only do 45 mph today.

      Also being direct drive motors to each wheel they may be able to put more power as traction down onto the road in less than ideal grip weather or surface.

      There are also NO LOSSES through the differentials and gearboxes as heat and noise a normal truck has.This is a MASSIVE saving

      And no more inconsiderate drivers using exhaust brakes through residential areas. Or noisy poorly serviced exhausts.

      • Steven Gannon

        Thanks. Occasionally I miss the bleeding obvious sometimes due to ADD unfortunately. That’s why I limit my comments somewhat.

  • Carl Raymond S

    The cost comparison with diesel is based on 7c/kWh energy. Who other than Tesla can offer that? Trucking companies now need to be solar and battery storage companies too, if they are to compete. The semi is the story of the decade, and I’m yet to see it on the evening news.

  • Miles Harding

    What was funny was Daimler’s attempts to steal the show with their own truck announcment.
    The Daimler is a really feeble effort by comparison.

  • Michael Murray

    Platooning. Driver in lead truck with following driverless trucks.

    “Land sakes, looks like we got us a convoy …”

    • My_Oath

      We already have that. They are called ‘Road Trains’.