Tesla
Tesla Semi

Musk tweet puts Tesla Semi back in the spotlight

Nov. 28, 2022
According to the Tesla CEO, the long-awaited Semi completed a 500-mile trip with a fully loaded trailer.

A little over five years from when the Tesla Semi prototype was unveiled, the first production models of the electric truck are finally about to be delivered to PepsiCo, which expects to receive 100 Semis. In preparation for that milestone, slated for Dec. 1, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter, which he also owns: “Tesla team just completed a 500 mile drive with a Tesla Semi weighing in at 81,000 lbs!”

According to Tesla, the Class 8 Semi’s range per charge is between 300 and 500 miles when loaded to 82,000 lbs. GVWR (battery-electric and natural gas trucks are granted an extra ton by the Federal Highway Administration). The OEM also lists the Semi’s energy consumption at “less than 2 kWh/mile.” Due to its sleek contours, the Semi also will be less affected by drag at highway speeds, with a drag coefficient of .36, or about half of a conventional diesel Class 8’s wind resistance.

In California, where electricity is 2.5 times less costly than diesel Tesla estimates an operator will save $200,000 in fuel costs over the first three years of ownership.

It’s unclear, though, whether that 500-mile drive included any stops to recharge the battery or how long the trip took. Assuming this Semi can get 500 miles, that makes it a perfect candidate for the regional-haul segment, which is basically any route where the driver can return to base in a single day. That puts the Semi's range at a radius of 300 miles maximum. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency, a strong proponent of using battery-electric trucks for regional haul, says the regional-haul segment is made up of 937,563 Class 8 tractors. This leaves plenty of opportunities for the Semi to make an immediate impact without interrupting a driver’s hours of service to charge the truck.

FMCSA has a short haul exception for return-to-base drivers, if they have less than a 14-hour duty period and travel within a radius of 150 air miles. All drivers must take a 30-minute break after eight consecutive hours, and if planned right, could recharge the truck while they fulfill their break.

Tesla has said the Semi’s batteries will recharge up to 70% in 30 minutes using fast charging. This method has drawbacks, though, as it is presumed frequently doing this will degrade the overall battery life over time.

According to Geotab, using DC fast chargers more than three times per month “does appear to impact the speed that batteries degrade. Rapidly charging a battery means high currents resulting in high temperatures, both known to strain batteries.” This inference came from analyzing 6,000 passenger EVs, and Tesla’s use of liquid-cooled “Megachargers” and its thermal management system could mitigate such degradation.

These, and many more, will hopefully be revealed at the Dec. 1 event.

About the Author

John Hitch | Editor-in-chief, Fleet Maintenance

John Hitch is the editor-in-chief of Fleet Maintenance, where his mission is to provide maintenance management and technicians with the the latest information on the tools and strategies to keep their fleets' commercial vehicles moving.

He is based out of Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in the B2B journalism space for more than a decade.

Hitch was previously senior editor for FleetOwner, and covers everything related to trucking and commercial vehicle equipment, including breaking news, the latest trends and best practices. He previously wrote about manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest.

Prior to that he was editor for Kent State University's student magazine, The Burr, and a freelancer for Cleveland Magazine. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician, where he served honorably aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723).