The Tesla Semi’s inaugural delivery event for PepsiCo featured a number of key announcements that are pertinent not only to the all-electric Class 8 truck but also to the company’s other vehicles. These include the Semi’s charging system, which will also be compatible with vehicles like the Cybertruck, as well as the vehicle’s immense power and efficiency.
As highlighted by CEO Elon Musk and Dan Priestley, a Senior Manager of Tesla Semi Truck Engineering, the all-electric Class 8 truck is a complete beast. It’s sleek, powerful, and with its 500-mile range, it’s more than capable of hauling a meaningful amount of cargo on a single charge. While discussing the Class 8 truck’s advantages, Musk and Priestley highlighted that the Semi is so powerful it has three times the power of any diesel truck on the road today. But that’s not all. The vehicle is also extremely efficient.
“You got three times the power than any diesel truck on the road right now. So you got all the power you need to get the job done. But the other reason that it’s a beast is because it’s also efficient. You can go 500 miles on a single change on one of these things. So it’s the mix of those two, that this is why it’s a game-changer. And what’s awesome is that both of those are enabled by our new thousand-volt powertrain, which is the first vehicle that we’re doing with that,” Priestley said.
The idea of Tesla adopting a thousand-volt powertrain came as a pleasant surprise to the EV community, especially since the company has been pretty tight-lipped about the details of its future projects. During the Q1 2022 earnings call, Tesla executives were asked if the company has plans to adopt an 800-volt architecture for its vehicles, similar to those used by rivals like the Porsche Taycan.
Back then, Tesla SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Andrew Baglino explained that an 800-volt architecture doesn’t really make sense for small vehicles like the Model 3 or Model Y. The executive also noted that if Tesla does adopt such a system, it would be for larger vehicles like the Semi or the Cybertruck. Considering Musk and Priestly’s comments during the Semi’s unveiling, however, it appears that the Semi would only be the first of several vehicles that will feature a thousand-volt powertrain.
“Don’t worry, there will be some more vehicles coming with that. But this will be a game-changer because of all the awesome innovations that have happened behind the scenes and under the hood, so to speak,” Priestley said.
Tesla Semi is the first of several vehicles to feature a thousand-volt powertrain
Five years after they were first revealed, the first Tesla Semi trucks were delivered to customers at an event at the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, Thursday.
The trucks, which were first unveiled in concept form back in 2017, were supposed to go into production in 2019 but were delayed for a variety of reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a global parts shortage. Representatives from PepsiCo, which reserved 100 Semis shortly after its reveal, were on hand to receive the first batch of trucks.
Tesla says the Semi is powered by four independent motors on the rear axles, can accelerate 0-60mph in 20 seconds, and has a battery range of up to 500 miles. Prices may start at $150,000, and there have been a number of orders from businesses like Walmart and FedEx in the low-dozens range.
Standing on a stage flanked by four Tesla Semis, two of which wrapped in Pepsi and Frito Lay logos, Musk spoke about the need to reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced by the shipment of goods across the planet. But after paying lip service to the mission of fighting climate change, he quickly pivoted to his distinct brand of showmanship.
“It looks sick,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on stage at the event. “You want to drive that. I mean, that thing looks like it came from the future.” Musk later referred to the Semi as “a beast.”
Musk ticked off a number of features he said will make the Semi the most efficient, most desirable, and most driveable truck on the road. The truck will feature a new 1,000-volt powertrain architecture that Musk said will factor into future product development at Tesla. The Semi has traction control to prevent jackknifing, regenerative braking for increased battery efficiency, and an automatic clutch for seamless highway driving.
“It’s a step-change in technology in so many ways,” Musk said.
Over the weekend, Musk revealed that one of Tesla’s battery powered class 8 semi-trucks had completed a 500-mile trip fully loaded with 81,000 pounds of cargo. The trip took place from Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, to San Diego at the southern tip of the state. At the event, Musk clarified that the trip was accomplished without needing to recharge the battery.
Tesla is positioning the Semi as the future of trucking. But while the company has struggled to get production started, the rest of the trucking industry has already embraced EVs. Major equipment manufacturers like Daimler, Volvo, Peterbilt, and BYD, have been working on their own electric long-haulers. The Tesla Semis delivered today were the final piece of a $30.8 million project partially funded by the California Air Resource Board, according to Bloomberg. Even Nikola Motors, which has struggled with fraud allegations and executive turnover, has delivered a hydrogen-powered truck before Tesla.
Still, battery-powered electric vehicles will face steep challenges, from weight restrictions to the availability of convenient charging stations, before they can be widely adopted. Truck stops, for example, are largely unprepared to handle the power needs of electric tractor-trailers and their gigantic batteries.
Two years ago, Bill Gates said that “even with big breakthroughs in battery technology,” electric vehicles were simply not ready to tackle long-haul trucking. “Electricity works when you need to cover short distances, but we need a different solution for heavy, long-haul vehicles,” Gates wrote. (Musk’s response to Gates was to post crude memes on Twitter, of course.)
Musk addressed charging during the event, revealing that Tesla has developed a new liquid-cooled charging connector capable of delivering 1 megawatt of direct current power. “It’s going to be used for Cybertruck, too,” Musk added to cheers from the audience. (The similarly much-delayed Cybertruck is expected to go into production in the latter half of 2023.) He also spoke about needing to uncouple Tesla’s Superchargers from the grid to ensure they can continue to deliver power during an outage.
Trucks are a key component of Musk’s “Master Plan Part Deux,” in which he vowed to expand the company’s lineup of vehicles to “cover the major forms of terrestrial transport,” including a semi truck.
During the event, Musk spoke about Tesla’s current product lineup, which has been criticized as stale as compared to other automakers that frequently release refreshed versions of past models. Standing in front of an image of Tesla’s vehicle lineup, including the forthcoming Cybertruck and a shrouded vehicle labeled “robotaxi,” Musk said Tesla wasn’t like other car companies.
“So what’s our actual mission? Our actual mission is to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy,” Musk said. “So that’s why we’re making this wide range of cars that don’t really make sense from a brand standpoint.”