(Photo: Tesla)Last week marked a special occasion for Tesla. Five years after announcing the development of its all-electric Semi trucks, the automaker finally delivered its first batch to PepsiCo—three years later than it was originally supposed to.
CEO Elon Musk hosted a celebratory event at Tesla’s Nevada “Gigafactory” on Thursday. The event, which was streamed live via Twitter, allowed a select group of shareholders to view the company’s first production electric Semis in person. Pepsi representatives were present to receive the keys to the company’s first few units, some of which had Pepsi and FritoLay graphics on the tractor unit.
Tesla’s Semi is said to be capable of completing a 500-mile trip on a single charge while carrying 81,000 pounds of cargo. It’s powered by a new 1,000-volt powertrain (which Tesla says will eventually make its way into other models). Regenerative braking will boost the Semi’s battery efficiency, while traction control will prevent dangerous jackknifing. Like other electric vehicles, the Semi is quieter than its fossil fuel counterparts.
“If you’re a truck driver and you want the most badass rig on the road, this is it,” Musk said at the event.
Musk has a habit of setting lofty timeframes that make headlines but don’t actually pan out. Though Tesla’s semis certainly didn’t help to break that track record, it appears their delay had more to do with COVID-19-related supply chain issues than misplaced ambition. Not only have material prices skyrocketed over the last couple of years, but the storied chip shortage made few exceptions for Tesla as it rattled the auto industry.
On paper, it appears as though Tesla’s electric semis—and other automakers’—could drastically reduce freight’s greenhouse gas emissions. Conventional semi trucks make up one percent of US vehicles but are responsible for 20 percent of US vehicle emissions, according to stats presented at last week’s event; with Pepsi, Sysco, and UPS expected to receive hundreds of electric semis in the near future, this figure could drop.
But in reality, things aren’t so simple. Truck stops will need to incorporate some major charging infrastructure before these trucks can facilitate cross-country shipments. Though Tesla is reportedly working on a new liquid-cooled, high-capacity connector that powers large batteries faster than your average EV charger, it could take years for truck stops and other crucial locations to install those (or similar technologies) and make long-distance electric hauling possible. Of course, as it begins to incorporate its semis into its own supply chain, Tesla will eventually realize this firsthand.