Large truck fleet buyers and execs are not profligate spenders. They won’t spend big dollars on untested technology, but instead do trial orders to test new technology. An increasing number of companies have shown interest in Tesla Semi with pre-orders. That includes large corporations like Sysco, Anheuser-Busch, Walmart, Loblaw, Deutsche Post / DHL, and PepsiCo. Recognize any of those names?
Given the growing list of trucking orders, it appears fleet buyers are more than a little interested in this technology.
They must be convinced that the technology has enough merit as presented to warrant further testing of its viability. Fleet buyers will typically use trials to evaluate results before considering further purchases.
Typically, Tesla works behind the scenes with customers before a product is publicly introduced. Sometimes products are used in the field prior to announcement.
What we know so far is that there are two drivable prototypes. From the pictures and videos of operating prototypes, they are at a relatively high state of design development.
Tesla itself appears to be the first customer for its new trucks, intended for shuttling between its Nevada and Fremont facilities.
Undoubtedly, Tesla has tested the Semi in real-world conditions to determine performance metrics such as energy use per mile, acceleration, and so forth. With such data, it’s possible to examine charging costs. This could take the mystery out of why trucking companies are interested in Tesla Semi.
An examination of the costs easily shows why this is so.
Long-term operating costs consist of fuel, maintenance and repair, insurance, and finance costs.
EV insurance costs should be lower, given the autonomous safety enhancements (enhanced autopilot is standard on all trucks) and simpler drivetrain maintenance should lead to lower costs.
With a lifetime guarantee of 1 million miles, the Tesla Semi operating life seems comparable to diesel operating life. Charging costs are lower than fuel costs, making savings in fuel costs large.
The purchase price of a Tesla Semi is $150,000 for the 300 mile range option or $180,000 for the 500 mile range truck. An estimated price for a typical Class 8 day-cab diesel is about $120,000.
At about $2.50/gallon (it varies all over the place and over time) and 6 mpg for Class 8 diesels, we come up with the following:
An estimated cost/mile = $2.50/gal x gal/6 miles = $0.4166/mile fuel cost.
Let’s suppose electricity costs are $0.12/kWh.
Lets use Tesla’s figure of 2 kWh/mile.
Then we have the following:
0.12/kWh x 2 kWh/mile = $0.24/mile.
That clearly beats diesel.
Let’s suppose we take round figures of 100,000 miles per year, 10 years, 1 million miles. The average US Class 8 semi’s annual miles travelled is around 70,000, but it varies depending on usage.
Per year, the electric Semi is saving, conservatively, 18¢/mile (42¢/mile − 24¢/mile), or $18,000/year. The purchase price is not large compared to lifetime fuel costs. The difference in purchase price can be made up in fuel costs in just a few years. If you assume the lower $0.07/kWh charging cost Musk promises for megacharging, the difference is nearly paid off in the first year. Given the likely lower insurance and maintenance costs, the scales tip even further in Tesla’s direction.
Those figures remain to be proven by the fleet owners’ experiences, but it’s likely Tesla has already figured out enough from its prototypes to make it confident of performance.