At the beginning of October, I published a story on the beginning of Tesla Semi deliveries. The first Tesla Semi for a commercial customer is set to be delivered on December 1, to PepsiCo. There are plenty of financial analyses and specs we could highlight to examine the cost-competitiveness of the Tesla Semi compared to conventional fossil-fueled semi trucks, and I’m sure we’ll publish those as well, but there was a comment under that October article that immediately caught my attention and deserved an article of its own.
In the article, I noted that this has been the Tesla vehicle I’ve been most excited about and most eagerly awaiting. CleanTechnica reader “lakshmishaks” responded: “I agree with Zachary Shahan on Semi being the most awaited Tesla vehicle. Not only will it have a relatively higher impact on emissions but also I feel will be the impact on public perception about EVs, specially in US with low EV penetration. Imagine seeing an electric Semi hauling 70-80K pounds over 500 miles. How many would still continue to think about EV capability!”
From the perspective of someone who has followed electric vehicles closely, that’s a big achievement. It’s a cool new vehicle breaking open another segment of the automobile market. However, it’s when we put ourselves in the shoes of more “normal” people that we can better see how big of a deal this is.
How many people have asked you how far your electric car can drive? How many people have asked you how long it takes to charge, with the implication being that an EV may not be practical for long trips? As far as I’ve seen, these are the two questions that every person not following EVs closely asks. You can pretty much bet on it — if you get into a conversation with someone who doesn’t know a lot about EVs regarding your EV, they are going to ask at least one of those questions. So, what happens when there are Tesla Semi trucks across the United States that can haul 70,000–80,000 pounds and drive more than 500 miles on a single charge?
As more and more people see that a Tesla Semi can pull almost 100,000 pounds at highway speeds for 500 miles (or whatever similar metric reality ends up delivering), they will think twice about their concerns about electric car range. They will be less concerned about an electric car’s ability to go on road trips once they find out about Tesla Semis criss-crossing the country. This won’t happen across the board overnight, but the word will get out, the trucks will be seen, and normal people’s concerns about what an electric powertrain can do will be eased.
This is also, to a different extent, one of the great benefits of the Ford F-150 Lightning, Tesla Cybertruck, Hummer EV, and Rivian R1T. These beastly electric vehicles demonstrate the power and practicality possible from electric powertrains. But none of them come close to a Tesla Semi. That’s a hugely different level. It will change mindsets for countless people.
Though, will the Tesla Semi really be able to drive more than 500 miles with 70,000–80,000 pounds in the back? According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the Tesla Semi team just achieved that.
Echoing my statements on how much I love the Tesla Semi and await its launch, Martin Viecha, Head of Investor Relations at Tesla, indicated in another recent tweet that it might be his favorite Tesla product. (I’m with you, Martin.) More notably, though, he also pointed out that many people still don’t believe an electric semi truck can achieve the above-mentioned performance. This is a testament to how big of a deal it is. This is a sign of how much an electric semi truck like this can break up concerns and myths about electric vehicles in general. It’s a mind-breaking step forward, sort of like the Tesla Model 3 was.
Stay tuned. December 1 is coming.