Tesla’s truck – four things we know (and five things we don’t)

George Barrow
September 18, 2017


Last week Tesla said it was ‘tentatively’ scheduling the launch of its electric-powered semi-truck for 26 October in California. It’s fair to say that the world of trucks, haulage and logistics went crazy over the announcement.

Details are scarce, and Tesla isn’t saying anything on the record about this project, but anticipation is high. CM decided to look at four things we know about this truck (and five things we don’t).

Four things we know

1) It’s a beast: Tesla founder Elon Musk told his 12.8 million followers on Twitter on 13 September that it is “worth seeing this beast in person. It's unreal.” It was the first piece of information released by Tesla in regards to its electric truck development in 15 months.

2) Blast-off is in Hawthorne: the south-western suburb of Los Angeles (not far from Los Angeles International Airport) is home to Musk’s other venture – SpaceX – while the Tesla design centre calls Hawthorne Municipal Airport home. Musk’s tweet said that the truck unveiling and test ride was tentatively scheduled for what we assume is this location.

3) It promises substantial cost reductions: Musk wrote in a 20 July 2016 blog post on Tesla’s website:  “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”

4) It could change the role of the driver: Tesla is also looking at bringing its technology and design prowess into the world of buses. The overlap between HGV and PSV technology (and legislation for that matter!) is considerable, so perhaps there is something to learn from Musk’s masterplan on the future of passenger transport?

“With the advent of autonomy, it will probably make sense to shrink the size of buses and transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager.

"Traffic congestion would improve due to increased passenger areal density by eliminating the centre aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways, and matching acceleration and braking to other vehicles, thus avoiding the inertial impedance to smooth traffic flow of traditional heavy buses,” Musk wrote in his 20 July 2016 Masterplan, Part Deux blogpost.

Five things we don’t

1) Range anxiety: The Fuso eCanter has a range of 62.5 miles, while the Tesla Model S passenger car has a range of 315 miles. While you’d be pleased with that return off 1.6 litres of diesel – can Tesla replicate the near 1,000 miles you get from 11 litres to 13 litres of diesel? 

2) Weight issues: Nobody knows the GVW that Tesla will offer. Current electric offerings – such as the 4-tonne Arrival set to join the fleet at Royal Mail (pictured below) – are very much sub 7.5-tonnes. If the range is at the lower-end of trunking, the chances of it pulling 44-tonnes would be pretty low.

3) Shape and size: the Fuso eCanter looks just like any other 3.5-tonner, while the Arrival has a more ‘distinctive’ look compared to other vehicles on the market.

Tesla’s cars have been described as ‘sexy’ and a ‘masterpiece of design’ – so expectations will be high. When you’re in the market of building incredibly expensive and extremely desirable cars, the exterior and interior of the Tesla Semi will be scrutinised more than any new model from the likes of Scania, Volvo or Daf.

4) How many will be made? Tesla isn’t your typical truck manufacturer – and it’s fair to say that in its cars business demand far outstrips supply. In fact it has a delivery date predictor when you put down the deposit for one on its website.

Matching the volume of output of any of the the big seven in the UK alone would be a challenge – just 9,030 pure electric cars have been registered in the UK as of the year-ending 31 August 2017 (including other brands that aren’t Tesla) compared to 22,177 commercial vehicles in the first half of 2017.

5) Will it be legal in the UK? Is the Tesla a North American market exclusive? Is it in Tesla’s interests to build a truck that complies with Directive (EU) 2015/719 or the (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986? After all the hype, we may see a truck on 26 October that never makes it to a UK fleet.

About the Author


George Barrow

George has been writing about nearly anything with wheels for the past 15 years and is the UK jury member of the International Van of the Year and International Pick-Up Award.

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