Tesla plans Semi production ramp next year

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Updated Apr 25, 2024
Tesla Semi

The battery electric semi truck Tesla announced in 2017 and set for production in 2019 is running late, but its production debut could be just around the corner (again). 

Tesla's fully electric Class 8 has been delayed at least four times and is five years overdue, but Vice President for Vehicle Engineering Lars Moravy said Tuesday during Tesla's earnings call that the company is finalizing the engineering of its all-electric Semi "to enable like a super cost-effective, high-volume production with our learnings from our fleet and our pilot fleet and Pepsi’s fleet, which we are expanding this year marginally," he said. "In parallel, as we showed in the shareholders’ deck, we have started construction on the factory in Reno. Our first vehicles are planned for late 2025 with external customers starting in 2026."

The shareholders deck shows Semi currently in "pilot production."

PepsiCo is the only fleet known to be piloting Semi in real world operations, running 15 Semis in the Modesto, California, area and about 21 in Sacramento. 

Pepsi and two of its Semis late last year participated in the North American Council for Freight Efficiency's Run On Less program, running two different types of routes: long-haul routes that transport between 250 and 520 miles per run and with a gross vehicle weight plus load of up to 82,000 lbs, as well as other routes under 75 miles per day, hauling a diminishing load that leaves nearly full and lightens throughout the day as deliveries are made.

Many fleets have told CCJ anonymously that despite still holding reservations, and Tesla retaining the fleets' Semi deposit funds, they've not been given an update on their Semi order status or prospective delivery date in several years. PepsiCo, too, is still waiting on the balance of the 100 trucks it ordered almost seven years ago – standing in a line that includes Walmart, UPS, FedEx and many others. 

Meanwhile, battery electric Freightliners are finding their way into customer hands in multiple states, and Schneider's eCascadia fleet recently eclipsed a million miles hauling freight. eCascadia recently hit 6 million customer miles in more than 55 fleets across the U.S., and eCascadia is currently the best-selling battery-electric Class 8 truck in the country. 

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Volvo has placed roughly 440 VNR Electrics with fleets, logging 4.5 million miles, and the company boasts 57 certified EV dealers, and a Peterbilt Model 579EVs this month became the first electric commercial truck to pass from the U.S. into Mexico through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry that connects Southern California to Tijuana.

On the lighter-side of commercial trucking, Volvo's sister company Mack Trucks recently began production of its second battery-electric vehicle – the MD Electric – and delivered units to several customers who are using the truck in a variety of applications; Navistar kicked off deliveries of its eMV electric medium-duty truck in 2022, about a year after its debut; and deliveries of Freightliner's eM2 are ramping up. 

Tesla earlier this month announced a layoff of more than 10% of its workforce and saw profits sag during the first quarter this year thanks to cooling demand for electric passenger vehicles. Among the oft-cited production challenges faced by Semi are internal distractions from Tesla's higher-volume passenger car segment and technologies like its Full Self-Driving platform, and neither will be going away any time soon. 

"We've updated our future vehicle lineup to accelerate the launch of new models ahead, previously mentioned startup production in the second half of 2025, so we expect it to be more like the early 2025, if not late this year," said Tesla CEO Elon Musk. "These new vehicles, including more affordable models, will use aspects of the next generation platform as well as aspects of our current platforms, and will be able to produce on the same manufacturing lines as our current vehicle lineup."

Musk did note that these new vehicles were "not contingent on any new factory or massive new production line. It'll be made on our current production lines much more efficiently," so it's possible they ultimately would not interfere with soon-to-be Reno-based Semi assembly. 

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].