Tesla Semi developers thought of the first delivery: ‘Get out the door. For the world.’

Following the first deliveries of the Tesla Semi to Frito Lay last night, the program’s developers are reflecting on the past five years as the vehicle has finally reached the end stage of its initial production run.

First unveiled in 2017, the Tesla Semi was delayed on several occasions. Initial delivery projections from Tesla have spanned from 2019 to this year, being put off due to a variety of reasons, from supply chain bottlenecks to a commitment to not move the company’s product roadmap forward this year.

However, Tesla came through and delivered the first units to Frito Lay last evening at Gigafactory Nevada. While it is five years past its initial unveiling date, it may have made the destination a little sweeter for those responsible for the Semi’s development.

“5 years of 16 hr days, overnighters, packed weekends, nonstop push, with a singular focus on [getting] to this point,” Staff Systems Design and Architecture Engineer for the Semi Satyan Chandra said. Since the Semi’s unveiling in 2017, Chandra has assumed three different positions at Tesla. When the vehicle was announced, he worked as a Sr. Hardware Design Engineer for the Model S, Model X, and Model 3. He then moved to a Staff Hardware Technology Engineer, where he helped develop Dojo.

Now, Chandra is managing and leading systems design, integration, and architecture programs for the Semi across battery voltage, chassis, and pneumatic applications. For him, the long road was worth it. “Our Semi’s out the door. To the world. For the world.”

For others, the product was more of the focus than the journey. Roger Casado, a Senior Mechanical Design Engineer for Cells, has been at Tesla for over a year. His work with the Semi was more about the why.

Casado’s first point about the Semi in a LinkedIn posting was the Semi’s extensive market application, which will help it attack 36 percent of U.S. vehicle particle emissions. Its versatility and streamlined operation make it as easy to drive as the Model 3, and the power, speed, and torque are evidently the main advantage Tesla Semi has over its competitors. Not to mention the 500 miles of range it drove on a single charge.

Yesterday, we discussed whether the Semi would live up to the hype Tesla created for it. Its initial application undoubtedly will have to prove its advantages over competing options. However, Tesla proved its 500-mile range in a crafty drone video, and its speed and acceleration have been displayed on the company’s test track and other, more recent examples. The vehicle’s success may depend on the number of clients it attracts, but is there really any reason for it to fail at first glance?

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Tesla delivered Thursday evening the first production versions of its long-delayed electric Semi truck five years after CEO Elon Musk revealed the commercial vehicle. The first Tesla Semi trucks were handed over to Pepsi at an event at the company gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.

Pepsi placed an order for 100 trucks back in December 2017, when the Tesla Semi was first revealed. Other high-profile customers-in-waiting include Anheuser-Busch, Walmart and UPS.

Tesla appeared to have at least five Semis at the event, which had PepsiCo and Frito-Lay branding. Pepsi previously shared plans to use at least 15 of the Tesla Semis to turn its Modesto, California Frito-Lay site into a zero-emissions facility.

The big reveal comes a couple of months after Musk tweeted that production on the long-delayed Semi had started, with first deliveries to begin in December 2022.

Musk had originally introduced an electric Class 8 truck prototype in 2017 and planned to start production in December 2019. The trucking program has been plagued by delays. During its second-quarter 2021 earnings report, Tesla said it would need to push production out to 2022 due to supply chain challenges and the limited availability of battery cells.

Tesla did not reveal the price of the Semi truck.

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 Dan Priestley, senior manager of Tesla Semi Engineering, mentioned any automated capabilities of the truck, nor discussed the placement of the cameras that would be needed for Autopilot to “see.”

However, Tesla did stay true to several of its other 2017 promises. For example, five years ago, Tesla said its Semi would be able to travel 500 miles on a single battery charge when fully loaded and driving 65 miles per hour. The automaker appears to have delivered on that promise Thursday and even demonstrated with a video showing a Semi drive from Fremont to San Diego. The company did not provide some important stats, however, including the size of the battery pack.

In the past, Musk has said the Semi will go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 20 seconds when fully loaded, but the executive didn’t mention that capability on Thursday. However, Musk and Priestley did tout the power of the Semi to easily pass another truck on a highway while loaded with goods and going up 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 that means one of the motors is constantly engaged for maximum efficiency and the other two are for torque and acceleration, which could come in handy if a driver was getting onto a loading dock or wanted to pass another vehicle.

“It can basically pull 82,000 pounds at cruise, and the only thing that’s doing it is a tiny little motor on one axle,” said Musk, noting that the motor was about the size of a football but, because of its energy density, was more powerful than a diesel engine. In fact, Priestley said the Semi had three times the power of any diesel truck on the road right now.

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