Elon Musk delivers Tesla's first long-haul Semi truck to Pepsi

Tesla chief executive offered no updates on the cargo-hauling vehicle's pricing or production plans during the live-streamed event

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Tesla chief executive Elon Musk delivered the company's first heavy-duty Semi to Pepsi on Thursday, making good on a pledge he made in October, but without offering updated forecasts for the cargo-hauling vehicle's pricing or production plans.

Mr Musk, who appeared on stage at an event at Tesla's Nevada plant, said the battery-powered, long-haul lorry would reduce emissions, outperform existing diesel models on power and safety and spin-off a fast-charging technology Tesla would use in its upcoming Cybertruck pickup.

To demonstrate the truck's capabilities and range, Tesla, the world's biggest electric car manufacturer, tweeted a time-lapse video in which a "fully loaded" Semi travels 500 miles (805 kilometres) on a single charge, a feature Mr Musk had teased in October.

The Semi accelerates from zero to about 100 kilometres an hour in 20 seconds, Tesla said.

“If you're a trucker and you want the most badass rig on the road, this is it,” Mr Musk said, noting that it was five years since Tesla had announced it was developing the all-electric vehicle.

"The sheer amount of drama between the last one and now is insane. A lot has happened in the world, but here we are, it's real," he said at the live-streamed unveiling.

The Semi was first unveiled in 2017 when Mr Musk said, tongue in cheek, that it could “transform into a robot, fight aliens and make one hell of a latte” and also claimed it would “blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension”.

On a more serious note, he said at the time that the cost of ownership of the Semi would be 20 per cent less per mile compared with diesel trucks, while also having faster acceleration, better uphill performance and “thermonuclear explosion-proof glass”.

Autopilot and lane-keeping technology would be present, and jackknifing would be “impossible”, Mr Musk said.

Still, industry experts remain sceptical that battery electric lorries can take the strain of hauling hefty loads for hundreds of miles economically.

Tesla did not announce pricing for the Semi at the Thursday event, provide details on variants of the vehicle it had initially projected or supply a forecast for deliveries to Pepsi or other customers. Tesla said it would begin using the Semi to ship parts to its plant in Fremont, California.

In 2017, Tesla said the 300-mile-range version of the Semi would cost $150,000, and the 500-mile version $180,000, but Tesla's passenger electric vehicle prices have increased sharply since then.

Pepsi, which completed its first cargo run with the Semi, had ordered 100 of them in 2017.

Mr Musk said the Semi had been doing test runs between Tesla's Sparks, Nevada factory and its plant in Fremont. Tesla said it had completed a 500-mile drive on a single charge with a Semi weighing in at 81,000 pounds in total, without giving a breakdown of cargo weights.

Some observers voiced doubts about the presentation, which ended without Mr Musk taking questions.

“Not very impressive — moving a cargo of chips (average weight per pack 52 grams) cannot in any way be said to be definitive proof of concept,” said Oliver Dixon, senior analyst at consultancy Guidehouse.

Tesla had initially set a production target for 2019 for the Semi, which was first unveiled in 2017.

The Semi is capable of charging at 1 megawatt and has liquid-cooling technology in the charging cable in an updated version of Tesla's Supercharger that will be made available to the Cybertruck, Mr Musk said.

The Cybertruck is scheduled to go into production in 2023.

Tesla said other, future vehicles would use the powertrain technology developed for the Semi without providing details.

Mr Musk said the Semi has three times the power of any diesel-powered lorry and uses regenerative braking to improve efficiency.

In a slide displayed as part of Mr Musk's presentation, Tesla showed an image of a future “robotaxi” in development with a mock-up of the future car covered under a tarp.

Updated: December 02, 2022, 6:53 AM
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