Posted on May 22, 2018 by Charles Morris
Elon Musk dropped a number of tantalizing tidbits on Tesla’s recent quarterly earnings call. However, it took a couple of weeks for the media to take notice - at first, all anyone wanted to write about was how Musk snubbed a couple of high-powered Wall Street pundits in favor of independent analyst Galileo Russell. One of several nuggets buried amidst the brouhaha was Musk’s announcement that he now expects the production version of the Tesla Semi to have a 600-mile range.
Above: A 600-mile range could be coming for the Tesla Semi (Instagram: nikola_tesla_lab)
When Tesla unveiled the Semi last November, it promised a 500-mile range. That was plenty to pique the interest of fleet customers such as UPS, Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo. With a healthy number of orders already on the books, why bother to throw another 100 miles into the pot?
It may be that Elon Musk wanted to signal his confidence that Tesla has major battery innovations in the pipeline. Many observers believe that the company won’t be able to deliver the Semi’s promised performance without some sort of battery breakthrough.
Above: Tesla Semi arrives at the Anheuser-Busch brewery (Instagram: deere_3046r)
Also on the conference call, Musk and CTO JB Straubel expanded on the idea of selling renewable energy to Tesla Semi customers charging at a low, fixed rate. “For trucking companies, if the cost of diesel goes up a few cents, it destroys their business,” said Musk. With “a solar battery powered Megacharger, we have constant costs. And we know what they are. We bake them in.”
Musk reiterated that the Semi would offer “a lower cost per mile than a diesel truck.” A recent report from the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (via GreenBiz) paints a more cautious figure, predicting that electric Class 7 and 8 trucks won’t be cost-competitive with legacy diesel vehicles until 2025 or 2030. Daimler Head of Trucks Martin Daum is also a skeptic, claiming that the Semi’s announced specs stretch the laws of physics.
Above: Gianni Kovacevic, CEO of CopperBank, discusses some of the distinct advantages he sees for the Tesla Semi (Youtube: Kitco NEWS)
Time will tell if Elon’s confidence is justified. However, he’s well aware that, unlike the passenger car market, the trucking market is driven by costs, not fun. “We tried to make our Semi kind of cool and sexy, just because we think that that’s a good thing to do, not because it affects the buying decision of our customers in a meaningful way,” said Musk, adding that commercial customers aren’t making decisions based on “aesthetics or consumer-related things.”