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Clean Transport

Tesla Semi Order Books Are Open

Want a Tesla Semi? Now you can order one if you have $25,000 available.

Customers can now place orders for the Tesla Semi. Until now, companies could reserve one but not actually order one. The Tesla Semi has had a 4-year gestation period, during which many of its specifications have become public. The truck will have 4 electric motors powering the rear wheels and will be available with a range of either 300 or 500 miles. The company has not yet released details about the size of the batteries in each version.

The company says the “expected base price” is $150,000 for the standard range Semi and $180,000 for the extended range variant. That “expected base price” language leaves some wiggle room to adjust prices based upon the recent spike in raw material prices for lithium and nickel.

Here’s how to order one. Interested parties are being asked for a $5,000 deposit immediately and an additional $20,000 within 10 days. Tesla hasn’t said yet when the first trucks will be delivered.

The Specs

Tesla was not the first company to get an electric Class 8 tractor into the hands of customers. Our colleague Jo Borras was in California last week for the annual ACT heavy truck show and was surrounded by battery-electric trucks from Volvo Trucks and others. What makes the Tesla Semi stand out in what will soon be a crowded field is its specs.

Most trucks have the aerodynamic efficiency of a small barn. Tesla says the Semi has a Cd of 0.36. That is remarkably low. According to one scientific study, the average tractor and trailer have a Cd of over 6. That, friends, is some serious aerodynamic drag. Tesla insists the Semi will only consume less than 2 kWh of electricity per mile. My readers know I am terrible at math, but if you multiply 2 by the stated range of the Semi, you should be able to come up with a reasonable estimate of the battery size needed to meet the range targets.

The battery itself can charge at 240 kW of power and will need 2 hours to go from a 20% to 80% state of charge. The Tesla Semi can maintain a speed of 60 mph while hauling a loaded trailer up a 5% grade and sprint to 60 mph with a trailer attached in under 20 seconds. That may not seem all that fast, but keep in mind the maximum weight of the truck and trailer is 82,000 lb. My mother’s 1961 Hillman could barely do any better.

Autopilot Included

The Tesla Semi will come with a full suite of electronic driver assistance features, include Autopilot. The company does point out that drivers will have to keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times, just like a regular Tesla automobile. But the quiet, vibration-free ride should be a welcome relief to many long-haul truckers.

Fleet managers will be delighted to know that the Tesla Semi will slash fuel costs, especially now with diesel prices at record levels. Tesla says the truck should pay for itself in lower maintenance and fuel costs in about 2 years. Will the Tesla Semi disrupt the heavy truck industry the way the Model 3 disrupted the passenger car market? Probably, and that’s a good thing for the Earth and people who like to breathe air that is free of pollution and particulates.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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