Tesla is starting production of its electric Semis, and the first ones will be delivered to Pepsi starting Dec. 1, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter Thursday.

It’s been a long road to production for this project, which was revealed in 2017, and then the company said the Semi would go into production in 2019.

However, that came before Musk convinced shareholders earlier this year. Back in January, Musk said to expect Cybertruck, Roadster and Semi will stretch until 2023as the company pushed back on new products and focused this year on increasing output of its existing products, as well as dealing with supply chain delays and chip shortages.

Not the first, but the big efficiency advantage?

Given the delays, Tesla isn’t the first with a Class 8 electric semi. One other competitor, Freightliner, introduced its first pre-production eCascadia models in 2019 and put the trucks into customer service with more than a million actual miles by 2021. eCascadia went into serial production in May.

Tesla Semi electric semi-trailer prototype

Musk insisted in a follow-up tweet that the Semi will have a range of 500 miles and will be “a lot of fun to drive.” Range would be a big advantage over the eCascadia’s 230 miles with a 438 kWh battery if it panned out — and skeptics remain. Final specifications of the Semi have not been released.

Musk suggested in August that Semis would begin shipping by the end of the year, but if there was a Tesla project with a more slippery timeline than even fans can keep up with, this is it.

It was about batteries

The reasons Musk talked about the most are related to batteries. At various points, Musk has explained that ramping up production of the Semi has been delayed in part or in whole because depended on such a number of cellsA semi requires about five times as many cells as a car.

Cylindrical cells - Panasonic hints at the 4680's progress

Cylindrical cells – Panasonic hints at the 4680’s progress

Musk also complained in July 2021 that the company “Baskin-Robbins Batteries”— read: too many species — the situation had to be corrected. But ultimately it was an all-of-the-above approach that helped the company get enough batteries, including the company’s own ramp in the 4680 cell format, continued use of the 2170 format for many cars, and transition to LFP cells for some models.

Then, in September, Tesla’s vice president of investor relations, Martin Vieja, suggested at a Goldman Sachs presentation that cell supply was no longer such an issue.

Tesla Supercharger Station V3, Las Vegas

Tesla Supercharger Station V3, Las Vegas

So with Semis coming soon to some highly visible fleets, how will they get paid for the quick turnaround? In short, don’t look for big Megacharger truck stops ready to service Tesla Semis like Supercharger stations do for its electric vehicles. Don’t look for Megachargers at Supercharger stations either.

The Tesla Megachargers moment has passed

According to Tesla’s senior manager of charging policy, Francesca Val, during a Q&A last week at the CharIn North America conference in Portland, attended by Green Car Reports, it won’t happen—at least not anytime soon.

“We don’t necessarily see ourselves as a public — even heavy — owner-operator with fast charging, maybe if it’s not for our own fleet,” Wall said when asked how Tesla plans to get involved in producing megawatt-level charging.

“So, as with others, there’s probably going to be a lot of depot charging initially, then there’s going to be a public charge,” Wall added. “And so I think we’re really interested to see who’s going to play that role, how federal funding is going to play into that and provide support; but I don’t think you’ll be seeing Supercharger sites as supercharger sites anytime soon.”

Tesla’s 1.5-megawatt Megacharger concept, which was essentially rolled out with the prototype Semi, has already been installed in test rigs at the Gigafactory in Nevada, at Frito-Lay’s headquarters, and possibly at other customers.

Freightliner eCascadia

Freightliner eCascadia

But it can’t be much further than that. Tesla is not proprietary to its charging format in Europe. Where the charging infrastructure was already well established by the time of market entry, its vehicles use the CCS format. And with the added hurdles of siting and building a megawatt plant — plus the possibility of government money that would provide format independence — there are incentives to go with the almost fully baked Megawatt charging standardor MCS, which is what the CharIn conference focused on.

Tesla suggested in 2020 what it looks like for infrastructure deployment with other parties, and settle on a standard one powerful enough to charge the truck during mandatory breaks. And with the automaker’s ongoing involvement in developing the megawatt charging standard, or MCS, that’s effectively it. Instead of a chokepoint between multiple charging standards, rare and expensive infrastructure in the future the megawatt truck pulls up which we hope will be deployed to reduce pollution and carbon emissions by all those who want to deliver goods, not just those who choose one brand.


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