Tesla earlier this year promised the first Semi heavy-duty tractors would be delivered before the end of 2021, but it didn’t say how many of them would be delivered. According to Elon Musk, the company is waiting for production of its latest 4680 format batteries to begin before kicking Semi production into high gear. Currently, a limited supply of those cells — about 10 GWh a year — is being manufactured at the company’s pilot factory in Fremont.
On December 11, Twitter user Sawyer Merritt posted a message saying, “A source has informed me that the Tesla Semi is now in limited production. Key word here is LIMITED. This has been independently corroborated by drone footage taken today (Dec 10, 2021) of the Giga Nevada Semi prod building, & sent to me.” His source noted the vehicles he filmed did not have the manufacturer plates normally used for prototypes being tested on public roads, which suggests these trucks are intended for delivery to actual customers.
According to Electrive, it is routine for truck manufacturers to supply a limited number of pre-production vehicles to customers well in advance of the start of series production. This gives the customers a chance to experience the trucks in daily use and provide feedback about how they perform to the manufacturer. Any deficiencies or suggested improvements can then be corrected or incorporated into the vehicles that finally emerge from the end of the assembly line. Such a collaborative process results in better products, happier customers, and higher sales.
The logical assumption is that these pre-production trucks are intended for Pepsi, the first company to place a substantial order for the Tesla Semi back in 2017 when it was first announced. Last month, Pepsi CEO Ramon Laguarta said he expected the first trucks to be delivered before the end of December. Pepsi is about to complete the installation of a Tesla Megacharger — the device that will be used to recharge the batteries in the Tesla Semi trucks — in California. Two Megachargers have been installed at Gigafactory 1 in Nevada.
Volume production of the Tesla Semi is expected to begin in 2023 at the new Tesla factory in Austin, Texas. A battery factory nearby will manufacture the 4680 cells for the battery packs that power the Semi.
The Tesla Semi won’t have the electric Class 8 truck market all to itself, however. Mercedes has pre-production versions of its e-Actos trucks in the hands of customers in Europe, and Volvo Trucks has electric semi trucks coming as well. While lots of people are still up in the air about buying an electric car, commercial fleet operators are already making the move to electric trucks. Will we miss all those snorting diesels spewing toxic fumes into the atmosphere? Not in the slightest.