Tesla Semi: All you need to know about the new electric truck

Elon Musk unveiled the lorry that has 'crazy power' and will be cheaper to run than diesel vehicles

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Tesla, the world's biggest electric car manufacturer, has entered the truck market with the delivery of its first Semi model.

It has been a long time coming, having been unveiled by chief executive Elon Musk in 2017.

But how environmentally friendly is it and is it capable of long-distance haulage? Here's all you need to know:

How is the Tesla Semi different from other trucks?

First and foremost, it's all electric, so has significantly reduced emissions, while also having impressive acceleration — for a truck — of zero to about 100kph in 20 seconds.

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

Tesla said charging with electricity is about 2.5 times cheaper per mile than refuelling with diesel.

Trucks in Semi's category represent just 1 per cent of US vehicle sales but 20 per cent of overall vehicle emissions, the company said.

“This thing has crazy power relative to a diesel truck,” Mr Musk said. “Basically, it's like an elephant moving like a cheetah.”

It has a central seating position, while “an all-electric architecture reduces both rollover risk and cabin intrusion in case of an accident”, Tesla said.

No details were given on driver-assistance technology.

How far can it drive?

Indeed, cargo needs delivering over long distances, especially in the US.

And electric vehicles, of course, require frequent charging.

Tesla showed a time-lapse video in which a Semi, which was said to be “fully loaded”, drove 500km on a single charge.

It said it can recover up to 70 per cent of range in 30 minutes using Tesla’s Semi chargers, and operators can see estimated fuel savings of up to $200,000 within their first three years of ownership.

What is the price?

This is a bit of a mystery. Back in 2017, Tesla said the 500km-range version of the Semi would cost $150,000, and the 800km-range version $180,000. However, Mr Musk was tight-lipped on the price during the launch event on December 1.

Prices of other Tesla models have risen in the past year, amid inflationary pressures and supply chain issues.

Who has ordered one?

PepsiCo was the first recipient of the Semi. It ordered 100 trucks in 2017.

It had previously said it aims to use the lorries to ship snack foods and beverages between manufacturing and distribution centres, as well as to retailers.

Robyn Denholm, chair of Tesla, recently said the automaker might produce 100 Semis this year, but Mr Musk did not comment on production volumes at the launch.

In late October, Mr Musk said that Tesla is aiming to build 50,000 Semis by 2024.

Brewer Anheuser-Busch, United Parcel Service and Walmart were among other companies to have reserved the Semi.

Can it fight aliens?

Er, no. When the Semi was first unveiled in 2017, Mr Musk said, tongue in cheek, that it could “transform into a robot, fight aliens and make one hell of a latte”. He also claimed it would “blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension”.

What else did Elon Musk say?

He apologised for the delay and added: “The sheer amount of drama between five years ago and now is insane. A lot has happened in the world, but here we are, and it’s real.”

He described the Semi as a “game-changer”, and said: “you have all the power you need to get the job done”.

What's next for Tesla?

The Cybertruck. It was first unveiled back in 2019 to great fanfare, and was said in October to be in “the final lap”, with production to start in the middle of next year.

It has been designed to have the pull of an off-road vehicle, while maintaining the speed of a high-end sports car.

Tesla is also developing a robot called Optimus, which will be able to carry out simple tasks such as lifting boxes and watering plants.

Updated: December 05, 2022, 8:34 AM