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25 August 2017

Tesla Semi May Be Ideal For 200-300 Mile Regional Runs

When revealed next month, Tesla’s Semi tractor trailer won’t have range for long-haul trucking, but may be perfect for local 200-300-mile runs centered around a home base.

The word comes via Reuters, which reported Scott Perry, an executive at fleet operator Ryder System, met with Tesla officials at its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant earlier this year to discuss the truck under development. He was told the truck would be built around a 200-to-300 mile range assuming a typical commercial truck payload.

The Tesla Semi will be what truckers call a “day cab” without a sleeper berth, he said. That truck size and range make it ideal for short hauls, but doesn’t come anywhere near the typical diesel heavy-duty freight truck that can go about 1,000 miles on a tankful of fuel.

“I’m not going to count them out for having a strategy for longer distances or ranges, but right out of the gate I think that’s where they’ll start,” said Perry, chief technology officer and chief procurement officer for Ryder.

In April, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the Tesla Semi would be unveiled in September.

The truck development team has “done an amazing job” and that the vehicle is “seriously next level.”

Last year, Musk introduced the idea in his blog post, “Master Plan Part Deux.” He mentioned the company’s plan to build the Tesla Semi, which Musk said at the time “should be ready for unveiling next year.”

Earlier this month, it was learned that Tesla is looking into making the electric truck capable of autonomous driving.

As for the Ryder executive’s comments, Tesla wouldn’t acknowledge any of it.

In an emailed response, the electric automaker said, “Tesla’s policy is to always decline to comment on speculation, whether true or untrue, as doing so would be silly. Silly!”

Musk has said that he’s met privately with potential truck customers to discuss what they’d be willing to purchase. He wouldn’t give details on how far it could travel, the payload weight it could carry, or how much it would cost.

Battery researchers acknowledged to Reuters that a 200-300 mile range electric truck is possible with technology currently available.

Market demand could be strong. About 30 percent of U.S. trucking jobs take place in short-haul regional trips that go about 100 to 200 miles, said Sandeep Kar, chief strategy officer of trucking analyst firm Fleet Complete.

Clientele segments would include companies like Amazon that are moving cargo loads from ports to nearby warehouses for home and work deliveries.

Fleet operators who must comply with sustainability targets would also be interested, as would fleets looking at the cost savings gained from an electric truck needing much less maintenance and parts replacement than typical trucks with internal combustion engines. They’d also appreciate the fuel cost savings.

Breaking the 200-mile per charge barrier would help Tesla.

“As long as (Musk) can break 200 miles he can claim his truck is ’long haul’ and he will be technically right,” Kar said.

The challenges will be steep for Tesla. The size of the battery pack needed to meet the range will take away some of the cargo storage space.

The battery cost will also take away some of the appeal. A typical diesel cab costs about $120,000. A battery researcher said that the battery pack for a truck going 200-plus miles could cost more than $120,000.

There will be competition to face as well. Daimler and United Parcel Service say they’re bringing in electric delivery trucks. The German automaker said its electric truck will have a 100-mile range and will be capable of carrying a payload of 9,400 pounds.

Chanje, a Chinese startup based in California, has a partnership in place with Ryder to build a 100-mile per charge electric truck for package delivery.

SEE ALSO:  Tesla Semi Truck Teased At TED Conference

Musk has said he wants to see the Tesla Semi reach large-scale production within two years.

Along with the cost of building one of them and the competitive climate, the company has an even bigger challenge ahead. As the Tesla Model 3 enters the market full steam ahead, the company will be producing 5,000 units per week by the end of this year and will double that number sometime next year.

The Ryder executive said his company and many of its fleet customers want to see more electric trucks come to market. He thinks that as batteries become cheaper and environmental regulations become more stringent, making the business case when selling to fleet operators easier.

“This tech is being seen as a major potential differentiator. Everyone wants to understand how real it is,” Perry said.

Reuters

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