CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted that the Tesla Semi production is officially underway, two years after it was originally scheduled. The first batch of Tesla Semi, including 15 trucks, will go to PepsiCo, with deliveries starting on December 1st, 2022. PepsiCo is one of the first companies that reserved its batch of Tesla Semi when the electric truck was first unveiled in 2017.
In a span of five years, the world and the EV industry at large have changed quite a bit. Back then, Tesla was the only major competitor in the electric vehicle segment, let alone the commercial EV space, but now it faces competition from legacy automakers on all fronts. Tesla itself went through a number of changes ranging from using new battery production technology to upgraded self-driving software.
Additionally, trucking is a different ballpark when compared to passenger vehicles. On top of that, commercial EVs are still in their infancy with Diesel dominating as the fuel of choice worldwide. With Tesla Semi, commercial EV fleets have their first chance to put a dent in Diesel’s dominance, and as a result, it isn’t a coincidence that PepsiCo is Tesla Semi’s first customer.
Tesla Semi Production: Why PepsiCo Is A Priority
To understand why Tesla chose PepsiCo as its first customer for Tesla Semi, it is imperative to take a close look at the electric vehicle. The Tesla Semi is a heavy-duty electric vehicle featuring an electric range of 500 miles (804 km). In terms of performance, The Tesla Semi uses three electric motors on the rear axle capable of 0-60MPH in 5 seconds without any load and 20 seconds with a full load which is around 82,000 lbs (37,194 kg). Surprisingly, it can maintain highway speed, which is around 60MPH, at a 5% inclined road as well.
In terms of design, the Tesla Semi looks in line with other electric vehicles at the company. With a smooth and aerodynamic front end and an overall minimalist design, the Semi looks distinct from other box-shaped trucks on the market. Another distinct feature it has is the centrally located steering wheel, which could make driving such a big vehicle relatively easy. Like other Tesla vehicles, the Semi also has the usual suite of safety features, including Automatic Emergency Braking, Automatic Lane Keep assists, and a Forward Collision Warning system. The truck will also receive Over-The-Air (OTA) updates to improve its performance and features in the long run.
The battery specs of the Tesla Semi remain unknown at the moment. However, given the truck’s energy consumption of less than 2kWh/mile, Teslarati, estimated a battery pack between 500kWh and 1000kWh for the Tesla Semi. It is in line with Elon Musk’s prediction, who said that Tesla Semi would probably have ‘something like a 500 kWh pack.’ And here lies the answer. Tesla Semi can charge from 0-70% in 30 minutes, but they require specialized chargers. Earlier, Tesla named them the Mega chargers, but now it just calls them the Tesla Semi charger.
Moreover, Tesla has promised fleet owners huge savings, and that can’t become a reality without cheap electricity. The national average electricity rate in the US is around 18 cents/kWh, and in the state of California, it is 70% higher at around 31 cents/kWh. Differences like these can put a dent into a company’s savings, and Tesla would want to avoid that as much as possible.
Considering companies like PepsiCo operate on a pre-determined route, Tesla would have an easier time setting up the specialized Tesla Semi charging stations. And can even control electricity costs up to a certain extent by using renewable energy through solar panels at its new charging stations.
Tesla Semi Battery Cells To Play A Huge Role Moving Forward
Big electric trucks are difficult to make because they weigh a lot. As a result, they need a large number of batteries, but that adds a lot of weight, which again reduces the truck’s overall efficiency. It’s a difficult problem, one which requires a radically new solution. Thankfully, Tesla has one, and it’s called the 4860 cells.
The new 4860 cells offer more energy storage and power compared to the 2170 cells Tesla uses in the Model 3 and Y. In the manufacturing of the 4860 cells, Tesla will use a dry coating process which it developed through its acquisition of Maxwell technologies. Tesla will be developing the 4860 cells in collaboration with Panasonic at the Nevada Gigafactory, which is also due for an expansion as it only stands at 30% of its original planned size.
The original plan to launch the Tesla Semi in 2020 failed because the company had a limited supply of battery cells and decided to prioritize Model 3 and Y production instead. In hindsight, it does seem like a good move as Coronavirus essentially halted the logistics around the world for a better part of a year, and the Tesla semi would’ve suffered due to the same. Needless to say, after an additional two years of wait, the Semi will finally hit the road, and journalists, experts, and potential customers will be watching its every update very closely. And that’s why Tesla simply cannot afford to mess it up.