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Europe offers a different playground for the Tesla Semi

After the grand unveiling of the Tesla Semi last month, Jerome Guillen, the head of the Semi program at Tesla, addressed the audience at the Transport and Logistics show in the Netherlands.

Answering questions as to when the Semi would be taken outside North America and into Europe, he mentioned that the company is working on adapting the truck’s design to suit European regulations.

And true to that, Tesla has now opened up reservations officially in Europe, albeit in a select few countries – the Netherlands, Norway, and the UK. The choice of countries is also interesting, since the ones chosen have a relatively higher oil price compared to the rest of the European nations, and also are highly conscious of their environment.

The Italy-based trucking company, Fercam, is one of the first companies to reserve the Semi. Nonetheless, the order was not processed in Europe, but through its U.S. partner Mao, and will be exported from the U.S. to Italy. This looks to be a move that could cut diesel costs significantly for Fercam, as fuel prices in Italy are extremely high compared to the country’s economic faring and freight margins are consistently low in Europe.

Related: See the Tesla Semi

But the questions of ROI still remain. Electrification of trucks is an expensive upfront payment, with fleets needing to shell out an additional 125,000 euros to the usual cost to get a heavy-duty Semi.

There also is the additional concern of miles per charge, which might be an issue with long-hauling fleets moving from the depths of mainland Europe to the coastal ports. Charging stations across the length of Europe have not materialized, and fleets cannot afford hauling debacles because of the lack of charging stations.

There is no doubt that the Tesla Semi is a wonderfully engineered product, but there needs to be a deeper introspection into the segment in which it could prove its mettle. The Semi would be ideal in situations where cargo needs to be hauled between warehouses and transport hubs, which usually does not involve trucks to travel long distances. The Semi would also perform well in driving conditions that involve a lot of traffic, idling, and frequent stopovers, since the energy costs in such situations on a diesel truck would be high. 

The Semi would be a worthy competitor in the last-mile space if it could tweak its capacity, and model it to the size of smaller delivery trucks, which could navigate through tight corners and busy streets. The rise of e-commerce has led to the surge of last-mile delivery needs, and thus, this could be an excellent market fit for Tesla.

That said, the European market is a great place to be for an electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer like Tesla, since the continent is an inflection point of both freight business and stricter emissions regulations, which could work well in its favor.  

A McKinsey’s report on electric truck adoption scenarios across the world clearly shows that Europe leads in all the situations – be it heavy-duty, medium-duty, or light-duty. With sales penetration said to increase steadily in Europe, it is prudent for Tesla to ramp up its European operations in the years to come, especially in the freight market space.

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Vishnu Rajamanickam, Staff Writer

Vishnu writes editorial commentary on cutting-edge technology within the freight industry, profiles startups, and brings in perspective from industry frontrunners and thought leaders in the freight space. In his spare time, he writes neo-noir poetry, blogs about travel & living, and loves to debate about international politics. He hopes to settle down in a village and grow his own food at some point in time. But for now, he is happy to live with his wife in the middle of a German metropolitan.

One Comment

  1. The tesla semi would basically annihilate the competition in europe… Europe is ideally suited for this kind of truck. The law does not allow longer driving times than 4,5 hours (then have to stop for 1/2 an hour). Maximum driving per 24/hour period is 8 hours. Add to that that the elctrical infrastructure is extremely good throughout europe, and diselsprices are about 3 times as high as in the us. It should also e noted that the maximum speed for a trailer is 80km/h (which is about 50 miles an hour).

    The main differentiator between us and europe though is the weight; in europe we have 72 tons weight which is nearly 2 times the american weight. In the north weights up to 105 tonnes are allowed. So the truck needs to be strengthened to handle the higher weights, but from battery point of view it would fit the bill for long distance hauling without a problem.