First Tesla Semi tractor unit delivered to Pepsico

Commercial Motor
December 2, 2022

Tesla boss Elon Musk gave a short presentation on the new Tesla Semi tractor unit at a customer handover event where the first new truck deliveries were made to Pepsico.

In a short 30 minute presentation, Elon Musk gave an overview of the new Class 8 battery powered truck, which, while thin on specification detail confirmed the vehicles were currently in operation delivering between Tesla sites and had recently completed a 500-mile (800km) single-charge journey fully freighted at just under 82,000lbs (37 tonnes) gross vehicle weight.

The new truck, which features a central-seated driving position, had been through hours of endurance testing, Musk explained, and had “crazy power,” he said, “it’s like an elephant moving like a cheetah.” Tesla Semi program manager Dan Priestley, added the vehicle has “three times the power of any diesel truck on the road right now”, which would mean a top rating of over 2000hp (1500kW), while he also added the efficiency of the vehicle was a game changer: “You can go 500 miles on a single charge with one of these things,” he added. “This is all enabled by our new 1000 volt power train - this is the first vehicle that we’re doing with that.”

The tractor unit will use a lot of carry-over technology from the current Tesla automotive product range, Priestley continued. “Tesla has this whole vertical integration on the software and the hardware side. For the people who are working on putting all that together into one package this is a huge win for all of our products, but particularly the Semi.”

The driveline uses a tri-motor power system to balance performance and efficiency. “This is quite unique,” Priestly explained. “One of the units is permanently engaged - that’s for maximum efficiency. If you’re on the highway that’s going to do the bulk of the work. The other two units are for torque and acceleration, so when the driver needs [the extra performance] he has the power to do it. These are clutched automatically, so there is no driver input and it is also seamless. There’s no turbo lag or jerky-ness or anything like that.”

The regenerative braking capability was mentioned as a significant road safety benefit in the presentation, while traction control and other vehicle safety systems were a key part of the product, Musk added. Detailing the 500-mile single-charge performance, the presentation didn’t mention the number of battery packs or unladen weight of the truck - a key indicator - but Priestley did confirm the energy consumption of the vehicle of less than 2kWh per mile . 

For charging Musk revealed the plans for a 1MW charger which uses “next generation” immersive cooling technology to keep the charging cable to a manageable diameter and was developing new sustainable infrastructure with customers to ensure resilience of supply and back-up.

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