Tesla Launches Semi Truck, the Much-Awaited Tesla Semi Is Hyped

Emphasizing acronym-laden performance, Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduced the Tesla Semi in an evening event. The electric big truck is slippery, with a 0.36 coefficient of drag that is supported by intelligent flaps that support a range of trailers. The Tesla Semi will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5 seconds, pull a full load up a 5% grade at 65 mph, and deliver 500 miles of range, Musk said.

According to Musk, 80% of truck routes are less than 250 miles; the Tesla Semi thus in theory could make a round trip on those routes without charging, he suggested. The Semi is a day-cab configuration and, interestingly, has the driver sitting front-center rather than to one side. Musk claims this is for road safety.

The Tesla Semi will feature an enhanced autopilot capability as standard, with automatic emergency braking, automatic lane keeping, and forward collision warning. This is good news, in a way, but it’s difficult to gauge how this system would work in a world where big trucks have to react within the quarter mile rather than a couple of hundred feet.

Tesla guarantees the 4-motor drivetrain (one independent motor on each of the rear four wheels) to last one million miles. Tesla estimates $1.26/mile average cost versus $1.51/mile for a diesel truck.

Most of the information touted heavily at the truck’s unveil were performance metrics that aren’t generally that important to fleet managers and truckers. A fast 0-60 mph time means little to a truck driver, after all, when no information about freight capacities are listed.  The cost per mile is impressive, but not if the truck can only carry a percentage of what its diesel counterpart can haul.