Tesla will be showing off its Semi at its Design Studio in Hawthorne, California on Thursday at 8 p.m. on the West Coast. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has promised a truck that will “out-torque any diesel semi” and drive “like a sports car.” Seeing what an all-electric semi is capable of may be the most entertaining part of the night, even if it’s not a key metric for Tesla’s trucking customers. “If you had a tug-of-war competition,” Musk bragged at a Ted Talk in April, “the Tesla Semi will tug the diesel semi uphill.”
1. How Long Is Long Range?
2. At What Cost?
Can Tesla keep the upfront price low enough to be offset by cheaper operating costs from fuel savings and simpler maintenance? Tesla may provide such figures, though many fleet operators will want to put them to the test with hundreds of thousands of road miles before they’ll be convinced.
3. Platooning on Autopilot
(Bloomberg) -- Will the truck, expected to roll out by 2020, come with some level of autonomous driving? Tesla has been in talks with California and Nevada regulators about testing semis that can automatically follow a lead vehicle, a technique known as “platooning.” Platooning cuts fuel costs by reducing wind drag. And if the autonomous driving system is good enough to run without a driver, it could also dramatically cut labor expenses.
A teaser animation released by Tesla on Wednesday suggests the realization of one of Musk’s design aspirations: cameras instead of side door mirrors.
4. Who Are the First Customers?
It could be that Musk’s own empire will be the first demonstration customer of the big rig. Tesla’s automotive reach is growing, and its SolarCity arm is the biggest rooftop solar installer in the U.S. Musk's SpaceX could potentially use the vehicles to transport rockets, satellites, capsules, and equipment.
5. Infrastructure Solutions
6. Location, Location, Location
7. “Driver Comfort Features”
8. Shared Parts
Tesla’s foray into commercial trucking is coming at an impossibly tough time for the company. The Model 3 is already months behind schedule, and Tesla is spending $1 billion a quarter to get things cranking.
But if Musk can get Model 3 production lines up to their promised rates, and the motors and battery cells are truly interchangeable between the Semi and the new passenger car, the scale of those operations would be profound. While traditional diesel truck makers are testing truck-suitable electric motors by the hundreds, Tesla could be making them by the hundreds of thousands—even before its first big rig hits the road.
You can see our deep dive into what it will take for Tesla to crack the trucking market here and a look at Tesla’s competitors here.
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.