Tesla Semi Distribution Center

Musk touts Tesla Semi's range days before first fleet gets EV truck

Nov. 28, 2022
The first production models of Tesla's Class 8 battery-electric trucks are scheduled to be delivered to PepsiCo on Dec. 1. The Tesla CEO posted on Twitter this weekend that the Tesla Semi conducted a 500-mile drive at nearly full cargo capacity.

More than five years since the Tesla Semi prototype was unveiled, the first production models of the electric truck could be added to PepsiCo's private fleet, which expects to receive the first of its 100 Semis on Dec. 1. In preparation for that scheduled milestone, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter, which he also owns: "Tesla team just completed a 500-mile drive with a Tesla Semi weighing in at 81,000 lbs!"

PepsiCo operates the second largest private fleet in the U.S., according to the FleetOwner 500: Private list.

According to Tesla, the Class 8 Semi's range per charge is between 300 and 500 miles when loaded to 82,000 lbs. GVWR (battery-electric and natural gas trucks are granted an extra ton by the Federal Highway Administration). The OEM also lists the Semi's energy consumption at "less than 2 kWh/mile." Due to its sleek contours, the Semi also will be less affected by drag at highway speeds, with a drag coefficient of 0.36, or about half of a conventional diesel Class 8's wind resistance.

See also: Grid not prepared for electric truck 'avalanche'

In California, where electricity is 2.5 times less costly than diesel, Tesla estimates an operator would save $200,000 in fuel costs over the first three years of ownership.

It's unclear whether that 500-mile drive included any stops to recharge the battery or how long the trip took. Assuming this Semi can get 500 miles makes it a candidate for the regional-haul segment, any route where the driver can return to base in a single day. That puts the Semi's range at a radius of 300 miles maximum. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency, a strong proponent of using battery-electric trucks for regional haul, says the regional-haul segment comprises 937,563 Class 8 tractors. This leaves plenty of opportunities for the Semi to immediately impact without interrupting a driver's hours of service to charge the truck.

FMCSA has a short haul exception for return-to-base drivers if they have less than a 14-hour duty period and travel within a radius of 150 air miles. All drivers must take a 30-minute break after eight consecutive hours, and if planned right, could recharge the truck while they fulfill their break.

Tesla has said the Semi's batteries would recharge up to 70% in 30 minutes using fast charging. This method has drawbacks, though, as it is presumed frequently doing this will degrade the overall battery life over time.

According to Geotab, using DC fast chargers more than three times per month "does appear to impact the speed that batteries degrade. Rapidly charging a battery means high currents resulting in high temperatures, both known to strain batteries." This inference came from analyzing 6,000 passenger EVs, and Tesla's use of liquid-cooled "Megachargers" and its thermal management system could mitigate such degradation.

This article originally appeared on FleetMaintenance, one of FleetOwner's sister sites.

About the Author

John Hitch | Editor

John Hitch, based out of Cleveland, Ohio, is the editor of Fleet Maintenance, a B2B magazine that addresses the service needs for all commercial vehicle makes and models (Classes 1-8), ranging from shop management strategies to the latest tools to enhance uptime.

He previously wrote about equipment and fleet operations and management for FleetOwner, and prior to that, manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician aboard a nuclear-powered submarine.

For tips, questions or comments, email [email protected].

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