Tesla is set to reveal the electric (and possibly autonomous-capable) Semi in September – prototype form.
Tesla is coming with a commercial truck, plans for which were outlined in the company's "Master Plan Part Deux" and, now, just weeks before the truck's prototype official debut, we have learned it will have a range between 200 and 300 miles on full charge.
Named the Tesla Semi, the working prototype will preview a battery-powered regional truck with autonomous driving features that should be close to the latest version of Tesla's Autopilot driver assist system.
It is expected that the Tesla Semi will compete in the "local route" segment of trucking. This means it will have no sleeping berth or other accoutrements found on other long-haul trucks.
Tesla is looking to target transportation companies that operate fleets of smaller trucks that run along fixed routes in a relatively confined geographic area – rather than interstate routes that may take several days.
This approach (if it is officially confirmed) would make sense for the Tesla Semi given the state of electric vehicle technology. Fleets of trucks will essentially need their own charger infrastructure at their fleet home to operate, which means they'll have to recharge at their home base just about every day.
Industry analysts have pointed out that, even if the Tesla Semi goes into production, there is still the question of charging infrastructure – enough of a problem even for passenger cars.
In most circumstances, it is clear that electric trucks won't be able to use existing chargers. This is simply because it will be difficult for the trucks to occupy parking spots meant for electric vehicles.
Companies that purchase fleets of trucks will have to rely on their own chargers, which limits the variety of routes such trucks will be able to service. This is why reports suggest the range will be kept regional.
Another big obstacle that Tesla will need to look at is the cost of trucks and their batteries. Reuters has pointed out that regional diesel trucks currently cost around $120,000. In order for the Tesla Semi to be commercially viable, it will need to balance the cost of the truck and the battery against diesel competitors, while also trying to deliver a workable range that will make regional truck fleet owners take notice.
The cost and weight of batteries have always been an issue of balance for EV makers – a huge battery is certainly possible for a longer range, but at what cost to the weight and price?
Power specs for the Semi have yet to be published, although they are expected to be revealed along with the truck in September this year.
According to a Reuters report earlier this month, Tesla wants to start testing trucks with autonomous systems in Nevada, which has hosted autonomous truck prototypes on its roads for a couple of years, with the aim of testing "platooning" capabilities that will allow several trucks to travel in a closely spaced convoy.
Platooning is expected to be a stepping stone for autonomous trucks, allowing one truck to lead others operating in an autonomous mode either with or without drivers.
As for the Semi, Tesla hopes to start large scale production within the next few years.
Watch the video to see Elon Musk speak about the upcoming Tesla Semi!