Electrek's pre-announcement speculation, largely focused on the economics of the Tesla Semi
Electrek wrote:Electrek’s Take
There’s no doubt that the Tesla truck will be much more expensive and that it will try to compensate with a lower cost of operation.
Class 8 diesel trucks these days cost around $120,000, but in order to get any kind of significant range with a full load, Tesla will need to have a massive battery pack in that truck. I would expect between 400 and 600 kWh, which could easily be worth $100,000 by itself.
By taking that into account, and the fact that Tesla has never built a truck before, I find it hard to believe that they could deliver that truck for less than $250,000 outright.
However there could be ways to get around that sticker shock with a battery renting structure enabled through a battery swap program instead of purchasing the truck with the battery pack, but that’s just a big unknown at this point. I prefer to approach it as a straightforward purchase for the sake of simplicity.
An eye-watering $100,000+ cost difference for any product would be enough to make buyers look somewhere else, but that’s simply not at all the case for class 8 truck buyers because they understand that the cost of operating those trucks dwarf any initial price tag.
They can spend over $70,000 per year in diesel alone to operate a class 8 truck. Without accounting for the salary of the driver, we are talking about roughly $1 per mile of operation (maintenance, insurance, etc.).
That’s what Tesla needs to beat – or crush – if Musk wants to blow the minds of people buying semis.
I expect that Tesla could announce something between $0.40 to $0.60 per mile. For reference, I’d be disappointed if Tesla doesn’t even put forward a number for the cost of operation. I’d be impressed if it’s between $0.50-$0.60, and it will blow my mind if it’s below $0.50, which is apparently the goal.
Now, you could also account for the cost of the driver, which adds roughly $0.35 to $0.40 per mile. There’s always the possibility that Tesla surprises everyone and reveals that the trucks are actually driverless, which would further improve the cost of operation. But I would be surprised if it’s actually the case, at least initially.
There’s evidence that Tesla has requested to test self-driving technology for its trucks in California and Nevada, but I doubt the company plans to launch the trucks without drivers.
If they do, it would be an obvious game changer, but they don’t need to be in order to revolutionize the cost of ground freight transport.
Aside for the difference between the cost of diesel and electricity, there are other ways that Tesla could achieve improvements in the cost of operations.
For example, Tesla has proven to be quite good at aerodynamic performance. The Tesla truck could impress in that regard with a low drag coefficient and perhaps a way to shield the trailer from the wind.
Also, everyone seems to assume that the truck will actually be heavier than the average diesel truck. I am not so quick to say that it will be the case here. While there’s no doubt that batteries are heavy, diesel engines are too and there are likely other areas that can be improved.
The powertrain components alone in a diesel truck can weight between 3,000 and 4,000 lbs – with a typical class 8 truck tractor weighing in at about 16,000 to 17,000 lbs.
It’s not impossible for Tesla to beat that. Every pound that you can save on the tractor is important since it’s one more pound of payload and the overall load weight is limited to 80,000 lbs. Let’s say Tesla can save 1,000 lbs, that’s 1,000 lbs more of cargo per trip and again more money saved for the cost of operation. With several battery packs, Tesla also has the opportunity to divide the weight efficiently onto different axles.