Tesla CEO Elon Musk said this week that his company is developing a battery that will take its long-awaited all-electric Semi to a range of roughly 621 miles, a 24% increase over the earlier stated range of 500 miles.
The range spike includes not only using a more powerful battery but also using that battery as part of the truck’s structural support.
Musk revealed the news Wednesday during the 2020 European Conference on Batteries after he was asked to respond to critics of electric trucks who don’t believe the nascent technology is a strong option in Class 8 given battery weight and long charge times.
“I think this is really just a fundamental calculation of the energy density of the battery of the cell and of the battery pack and the integrated battery pack and truck chassis,” Musk said in response. “It’s the total mass of the semi-truck before including the trailer or anything and can you get that mass down to something that’s comparable to existing diesel trucks. I think the answer is absolutely yes.”
Recalling some of what was already reported at Tesla Battery Day in September, such as Tesla’s plan to increase battery energy density and integrate a battery pack into a vehicle’s structural support, Musk added that “we see a path over time to get to over a 1,000km range (621 miles) with a heavy-duty truck. A truck on the order of 40 metric tons, total mass. We think this is going to be extremely competitive and compelling to the trucking companies and we actually have a few prototype Semi trucks that have been in operation for over a year.”
Musk did not specify the range of those prototypes.
Reducing mass in Semi is a three-tiered approach that Musk said will eventually lead the truck to hitting the same payload max as a diesel.
“The keys to that are having a high energy density cell and integrating that cell into the pack with a minimum of extra mass and then having a structural battery pack where the cells and the battery pack actually form part of the core structure – and this is also something we talked about at Battery Day – and that we will of course be implementing with the Semi truck,” Musk said.
“The net result is that you’re able to carry basically the same cargo as a diesel truck like this,” Musk continued. “We think maybe there’s a one-ton penalty, maybe. But at this point we think we can possibly have even less than a one-ton payload reduction. In the current long-term I think zero payload reduction for electric trucks.”