Tesla Unveils Long-Awaited Semi Truck and Begins First Deliveries • Zoo House News
- December 2, 2022
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Tesla delivered the first production versions of its long-delayed electric semitrailer Thursday night, five years after CEO Elon Musk unveiled the utility vehicle. The first Tesla semi trucks were handed over to Pepsi at an event at the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.
Pepsi placed an order for 100 trucks back in December 2017, when the Tesla Semi was first unveiled. Other high-profile customers on hold include Anheuser-Busch, Walmart, and UPS.
Tesla seemed to have that at least five semis at the event with PepsiCo and Frito-Lay branding. Pepsi previously shared plans to use at least 15 of the Tesla Semis to transform its Frito-Lay site in Modesto, California, into a zero-emissions facility.
The big reveal comes a few months after Musk tweeted that production of the long-delayed Semi has begun, with first deliveries set to begin in December 2022.
Musk originally unveiled a prototype Class 8 electric truck in 2017 and planned to start production in December 2019. The truck program was plagued by delays. During its earnings report for the second quarter of 2021, Tesla said it had to delay production until 2022 due to supply chain challenges and limited battery cell availability.
Tesla sticking to its 2017 promises
Back in 2017, Tesla said Autopilot, the automaker’s advanced driver assistance system, would be on the Tesla Semi. At Thursday’s event, neither Musk nor Tesla Semi Engineering senior manager Dan Priestley mentioned any of the truck’s automated capabilities, nor did they discuss the placement of the cameras Autopilot would need to “see.”
However, Tesla stayed true to some of its other promises of 2017. For example, five years ago, Tesla said its Semi would be able to go 500 miles on a single battery charge when fully loaded and driving 65 mph. The automaker appears to have delivered on that promise Thursday, even demonstrating with a video showing a semi-drive from Fremont to San Diego. However, the company didn’t provide some key stats, including the size of the battery pack.
In the past, Musk had said the Semi can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 20 seconds when fully loaded, but the executive didn’t mention that ability Thursday. Musk Priestley, however, has touted the semi-truck’s power to easily overtake another truck on a freeway while loaded with goods and climbing a 6% incline.
The Semi uses the same powertrain as the Plaid Model S and Model X and relies on a “tri-motor system”. Priestley said one of the motors is on all the time for maximum efficiency and the other two for torque and acceleration, which could be useful when a driver wants to climb onto a loading dock or overtake another vehicle.
“It can basically tow 82,000 pounds at cruise, and the only thing that does that is a teeny tiny motor on one axle,” Musk said, noting that the motor was about the size of a football, but because of its energy density it was more powerful than a diesel engine. In fact, Priestley said the Semi currently has three times the power of a diesel truck on the road.
Musk said the Semi is quick to accelerate and quick to brake. As promised, the Semi comes equipped with regenerative braking, meaning the brakes supply power to the battery when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator.
“We get to the bottom of the hill and we have cold brakes,” Musk said. “That’s overwhelming in the trucking world.”
Musk also noted that the wheels have better traction — good enough to keep the truck from bucking — than a diesel truck because electric motors are more precise than diesel engines.
As previously announced, the interior cabin of the truck will be built with the seat in the middle. Priestley said drivers could get up and change in the cab, which has tool storage and charging ports.
“Efficiency in every aspect of the vehicle. There is a one touch suspension drop so it is very easy to attach to the trailer. It saves time and money,” says Musk.
“We’re really trying to extend the idea of that efficiency not just to the street but to the yard as well. So before and after the truck has done its job on the road,” Priestley said.
One of the reasons Tesla was able to achieve so much “efficiency” was because it could rely on insights from its active fleet of vehicles.
“We’re coming off a great launch pad with everything that’s already been done in the rest of our products,” said Priestley. “It’s also possible because Tesla has all this vertical integration on the software and hardware side, so the teams are working together to put all of that together in one package. This is a great win for all our products but especially for Semi.”
Tesla will be able to gather more data to improve the semi truck in the future, adding the trucks to its own fleet and using them to move goods between Tesla factories and suppliers.
After all, Tesla has remained true to its charging vision from five years ago. Semis are charged with a “megawatt class” charger that features a next-generation immersion cooling system. These chargers will be similar to Tesla’s Supercharger network. Alongside the chargers, the company will also install Megapacks, which is an energy storage system that prevents power spikes from the grid.