What Do We Know About Tesla’s Electric Truck?

Tesla is set to unveil its electric semi truck this week, and as usual with announcements from the tech phenom, the buzz surrounding the release has reached a fever pitch. Tesla CEO Elon Musk fanned the flames when he tweeted a promise that his company’s long-anticipated electric semi truck will “blow your mind clear out of your skull” when it is unveiled via live video Thursday, Nov. 16 in California.

The launch was previously been scheduled for earlier this fall, but Tesla decided to push back the truck’s release to prioritize Model 3 production bottlenecks and producing batteries to restore power to hurricane-battered Puerto Rico.

Though Tesla has kept many of the details of the electric semi under wraps, here are some things we can speculate about going into this Thursday’s live stream.

Disruption Ahead

Tesla has never built a truck before, but if they can successfully launch an electric big rig, it has the potential to significantly disrupt a key component of the American economy.

An 18-wheel semi truck may seem like a radical pivot for a company that’s been focused on developing cars for almost a decade, but it fits in with Tesla’s consistent focus on solving big-picture problems.

According to the American Trucking Association, at least 70 percent of all U.S. freight relies on truck transport, which represents around 38 billion gallons of diesel fuel consumption each year. One semi truck can cost $70,000 per year in diesel alone. Tesla needs to beat – or, better yet, crush – the annual costs of fuel, operation and maintenance if they expect to impress the trucking industry.

Scale production is on the calendar.

At a June shareholder meeting, Musk said the Tesla truck will reach scale production in 18 to 24 months, and that Tesla will be scaling production to make as many trucks as they can. Tesla invited potential customers in the freight industry to weigh in on the design process, so they expect their target audience to react positively.

However, production issues have been a challenge for Tesla as they struggle to keep pace with customer demand. Only 220 Model 3 cars made it to new owners in the third quarter of 2017, after Musk had promised to deliver 1,500. Many analysts predict these persistent bottlenecks could delay production of the Tesla Truck.

Range could be of concern.

Reports surfaced last month that the Tesla Truck will have about 200 to 300 miles in range on a full battery. Many diesel trucks can go as far as 1,000 miles without refueling, meaning the Tesla Truck will have some stiff competition for timing of long haul trips.

Wired’s Eric Adams also estimated earlier this summer that if the Tesla Truck had a 900-mile battery, it could weigh as much as 22 tons. Federal law prohibits semi trucks from carrying more than 40 tons in total weight, so the truck’s payload size could be restricted because of the massive weight of a battery. For Tesla, it could come down to choosing between range and payload – a smaller battery wouldn’t last as long, but it could carry more cargo.

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