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Tesla Semi Delivery — A New Tesla Era In More Ways Than One?

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This week, at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada, Tesla delivered the first Tesla Semis to PepsiCo. I watched it live, being hugely excited about it due to the reasons I mentioned in my recent article about the Semi and figuring I would write an article right after it.

Then I watched it again. And again. Now, as I write this, I’m watching the delivery event a fourth time as I write this.

A look at the new groundbreaking Tesla Semi. Image courtesy of Tesla.

This Tesla presentation stood out because unlike the majority of the presentations that Tesla does, it felt much more general than a traditional Tesla event, where they usually stick Elon Musk and a nervous manager on stage to discuss in incredible detail the improvements that are made due to the changes that have happened. Compare this to a traditional auto manufacturer presentation, where they often focus the talk more around the passion of the team and how great the product is, usually with a slick presentation often done with people who don’t really work at the company.

This delivery event stood out to me for feeling much more like the latter. It had Elon Musk on stage, with his sort of oddly endearing presentation style. Beside him was Dan Priestley, the Tesla Semi program manager who I don’t think was officially named on the livestream. Their presentation covered the same main beats that we had seen in the original Tesla Semi unveil event five years ago, and didn’t contain a ton of technical information that I normally love to dig into the following day, instead just giving us a few newsworthy bits.

Presentation Overview

The presentation starts with Musk acknowledging it took five years since being announced for deliveries of the first Tesla Semis. He added that the delivery event was being held where the Tesla Semi is being produced, at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. People at the event apparently were able to tour the production line before the event began, which I’ll admit I was disappointed to not see.

Musk and Priestley move on to discussion of the impact of the Tesla Semi in terms of emissions and sound, and how that aligns with the mission of Tesla. A slide is shown titled Covering Major Forms of Terrestrial Transport which includes a covered robotaxi as the fifth slot, although it isn’t mentioned.

We move on to efficiency and durability. Musk discussed how different the Tesla Semi is to drive when compared to a traditional semi truck, with three times the power of a traditional semi truck. Priestly mentioned the power comes from a 1000-volt powertrain. A new slide shows Tesla systems used in the Semi and how much real-world use they have already had in other products. Then they describe the testing that has been done on the Tesla Semi. Elon adds that Tesla will be using the Tesla Semi to haul goods itself, creating a lightning fast feedback loop for further improvement.

Next up is the powertrain itself, which Musk and Priestley note is based on the Model S and X Plaid powertrain, but with the ability to disconnect two of the drive units when not needed for further efficiency. This is illustrated with a fully loaded Tesla Semi climbing a 6% grade and using the power provided to pass and even gain speed. What goes up must come down, so they discuss how regenerative braking allows the truck to not burn through brakes and adds a layer of safety at the same time. More safety features are mentioned, although not expanded on.

Now we actually arrive at the efficiency part, where the announcement is made that one of the Tesla Semis recently completed a fully loaded (nearly 82,000 pound) 500 mile test in the real world, proving that it can be done. Other than a mandatory 30 minute break, there was no stopping or charging during this test. Priestley explains that the truck was optimized with the trailer to ensure the most efficiency possible, while a simplistic view of the truck in a wind tunnel is shown.

We are told that the Tesla Semi has been designed with the driver in mind, both from the comfort factor to the functions that will help truckers complete their shifts quicker. Immediately following this, there’s a slide revealing the Supercharger V4, a 1000 volt “Megacharger” that can receive and pass a megawatt of power, which will be used for both the Tesla Semi and the Cybertruck. This connection will start to be deployed next year.

The key to this all is sustainable energy infrastructure, where we would generate, store, and deploy sustainable energy. The Tesla Megapack is presented as a solution to smooth power demands on the grid and provide a backup in case of a power outage.

And just like that, it’s time for the first deliveries to begin! Almost exactly 30 minutes after the beginning of the event, two PepsiCo executives join Musk and Priestly, and Priestly hands the execs what appear to be two keycards for the Tesla Semis. A high five is exchanged, the PepsiCo execs express their appreciation for the team that made this happen, and it is announced there is a surprise in the back of one of the trucks — one of the Tesla Semis was actually delivered yesterday and returned to the Gigafactory with a load of Frito-Lay snacks for those in attendance. Musk reiterates his appreciation for the people who have stuck with Tesla while this product was developed and hopes that it revolutionizes transport.

My Takeaways

This was a fascinating event not because of what was said, but because of what I feel wasn’t. I fully expected to fire up my computer today to run spreadsheets and make calculations based on what we were told to try to back the battery cost numbers out and to see where we’re at. After the Cybertruck reveal, I excitedly wrote an article attempting to do just that, and then another applying what the conclusions I had drawn meant for other products if they were accurate.

But there was none of that. According to the notes I took — and I think I kept watching the presentation expecting to find something I missed — the only real new things were confirmation of the 1000-volt powertrain for the Tesla Semi and Cybertruck, V4 Superchargers, and the brief discussion that alluded to Megapacks being deployed to smooth the grid for fleet operators. None of those stuck out to me as new information to spend a half day researching that could potentially change my assumption about how Tesla is operating, or the lead they may have in certain technology.

What really stuck out to me was how this presentation more than any other I had seen was exactly what someone who had never seen a Tesla event would have expected to see.

Tesla presentations tend to follow a distinct formula — Tesla announces an event, the media as well as investors get hyped and start talking about what the best case scenario for that presentation could be, Tesla puts people on the stage who excitedly explain what went into the product, often using highly technical terms and descriptions that are difficult if not impossible to fully understand unless you’re immersed in that world already, and the following day the event is panned in the media and the stock price drops, before deep dives on what was revealed are completed and the stock price perhaps raises — sometimes significantly — as the information is digested. Instead, we got a smooth presentation light on details, and a stock price that as I write this is relatively flat (as I edit it, it’s down 1.4%, which is a pretty normal fluctuation for Tesla stock on any given day).

I’ll admit the math side of me is a bit disappointed that I don’t have any numbers to dig into and speculate on. I am excited to see these trucks roaming the streets of the real world, and hope that production can be ramped extremely quickly. I’m far less concerned about the Tesla Semi as a profit driver, and more as a statement to the world that the era of truly sustainable road transportation has arrived. I feel the presentation confirmed my beliefs from earlier in the week (and from about five years ago), and I will eagerly be looking for additional information on the Tesla Semi so I can dissect it further. I’m excited for that.

What did you think of the delivery event? Anything I missed?

*Disclaimer: I am a Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA] shareholder. Research I do for articles, including this article, may compel me to increase or decrease stock positions. However, I will not do so within 48 hours after any article is published in which I discuss matters that I feel may materially affect stock price. I do not believe that my voice could or should influence stock price by itself, and I strongly caution anyone against using my work as your sole data point to choose to invest or divest in any company. My articles are my opinion, which was formulated using research based on publicly available data. However, my research or conclusions may be incorrect.

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