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Elon Musk releases image of possible Tesla Semi

 Tesla CEO showed this image of the possible Tesla electric semi truck during a TED Conference in Vancouver on Friday. 
Tesla CEO showed this image of the possible Tesla electric semi truck during a TED Conference in Vancouver on Friday. 

Tesla’s CEO updates electric truck’s progress at Vancouver TED Conference

Speaking at TED Conference today in Vancouver, Canada, Elon Musk further teased his electric semi-truck, noting that he has already taken a ride in the prototype.

TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington noted that, based on a shadowy image Musk showed on stage, the vehicle maintains some of the Tesla characteristics, but otherwise resembles a traditional highway tractor.

“The truck looks exactly like you’d expect a transport truck to look, roughly, but with a smooth continuous design between the windshield and the upper façade,” Etherington writes. “There’s also headlights that resemble the ones used on existing Tesla cars, including the Model X and Model S, so it’s reasonable to expect some design continuity between Tesla’s consumer and commercial vehicles.”

There was no other news on the vehicle beyond the tease except that Musk called the truck a “spry” vehicle for people to read into that what they wish.

Officially, the Tesla Semi is expected to be unveiled in September. Little is actually known about the vehicle at this time, but several hints have been dropped and analysts who cover Tesla have speculated on what the end game for the vehicle is.

“We believe [Tesla] could sell its autonomous, electric semis without batteries, which would then be separately leased to customers,” Morgan Stanley analysts Adam Jonas and Ravi Shanker wrote in a research note. “With a [approximately a] 250-300 mile range, these batteries could then be swapped out at battery swapping stations … built at Tesla Supercharging stations and truck stops around the country.”

A battery swap program might offer a trucking company a lease for the battery. The company would purchase the truck without the battery included. When a battery is becoming depleted, the driver simply pulls the truck into a supercharging station or equipped truck stop where a technician would swap out the battery for a fully charged one. This system keeps the range shorter, thereby reducing battery weight, but increases the possible length of haul.

In the analysts’ view, a carrier that currently spends about 50 cents per mile for fuel (based on a cost of $3/gallon and a truck averaging 6 mpg driving 100,000 miles a year) could cut its fuel costs in half. The battery lease program might cost $25,000 per year for the carrier.


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Musk first raised the idea of an electric semi in July 2016 when he released his company’s Master Plan Part Deux. In a July 31, 2016, tweet, Musk replied to a question about a possible electric cargo van and said it would “probably makes sense to build off the pickup truck chassis.”

That electric pickup, which a cargo van could be built off, will come in “18 to 24 months,” he further tweeted.

“In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport,” Musk wrote in the Master Plan. “Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year. We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”

The Tesla Semi project is being led by Jerome Guillen, who served as Model S Program Director during early development stages and is a former engineer with Daimler Trucks who led the development of that company’s successful Cascadia tractor.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.

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