2018 Tesla Semi unveiled

TESLA has finally unveiled their much-anticipated semi-truck to a packed audience in California, with key highlights being a range of 500 miles, 0-60mph in 5 seconds and 0-400 miles charge in 30 minutes using a new network of Megachargers.

Tesla opened proceedings with an instant headline grabbing 0-60mph time of just 5 seconds – with or without a trailer – and with the maximum permissible load in America of 80,000lbs (40 tons) the truck can achieve the sprint in 20 seconds, which Tesla say compares favourably to diesel powered semitrucks that take around a minute to accelerate the same load.

2018 Tesla Semi unveiled

2018 Tesla Semi unveiled

Likewise, up a hill, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said, “The best diesel trucks can only do 45mph up a 5% gradient. Tesla Semi can do 65mph up the same grade – continuous, at mass gross [weight]. You’re earning 50% more than in a diesel truck.”

The average diesel truck takes 15-minutes to charge. Tesla envisage a change in attitude by using origin or destination charging, so cargo can be unloaded while the truck recharges. However, the company states a recharge time of 30 minutes to attain enough power for a 400-mile range – thanks to new “Megachargers”. In addition, the company states electricity prices will be “guaranteed low for Tesla”, thanks to them being charged by solar power using battery banks to store the energy.

Tesla is guaranteeing a wholesale electricity price of $0.7/kWh. Elon Musk explained that this is an important figure because 400 miles provides between 6-7 hours of driving, yet it is a legal requirement for drivers to stop for a 30-minute break after 5 hours. “You will not be waiting for your truck to charge”, enthused Elon Musk.

He added that the Megacharger network will be expanded over the coming years to enable electric truck driving, “anywhere in the world”.

As for total range, Tesla says the truck is capable of a 500-mile range at gross vehicle weight and highway speed, adding that 80% of routes are fewer than 250 miles.

 The company adds that this is possible in part thanks to its aerodynamic profile and low drag coefficient of 0.36cd, with most diesel (American) semi-trucks being between 0.65-0.70cd. Flaps on the side of the vehicle are adjustable, closing the air gap between the cab and trailer. Additionally, the bottom of the truck is flat bottomed.

The truck is powered by four independent motors, one in each of the rear wheels. Independent front suspension ensures a smooth ride for the driver, Tesla added. The driver position is central in the cab too; which Tesla say makes for easier entry/exit.

Two touchscreen displays positioned symmetrically on both sides of the driver provide easy access to navigation, blind spot monitoring and electronic data logging. Built-in connectivity integrates directly with a fleet’s management system to support routing and scheduling, and remote monitoring. And, being a Tesla, the company couldn’t resist equipping the truck with a ‘frunk’ (or ‘froot’) – stowage in the nose of the vehicle.

The truck has just one gear ratio, thanks to the torque of the electric motors not requiring more. Elon Musk also talked about safety, stating that a truck at maximum load travelling at 60mph is a very dangerous thing. Therefore, the Tesla Semi is equipped with “Enhanced Autopilot”, which includes Automatic Emergency Braking, Automatic Lane Keeping and Forward Collision Warning.

The driver is additionally protected thanks to use of ‘armoured’ glass. The latter is a detail that, Tesla says, will benefit truck drivers who suffer broken screens as often as once a year, putting their truck out of operation while a replacement screen is sourced and fitted, causing both cost and inconvenience.

The Semi is additionally equipped with convoy technology, which the company says improves the economics of using a fleet of electric trucks over diesel trucks and even rail freight.

In addition, the truck’s low centre of gravity ensures minimal rollover risk and is equipped with jackknifing prevention. It achieves this thanks to its independent motors that can adjust the torque going to each to bring a truck back in line. “Jackknifing [in the Semi] is impossible”, Elon emphasised.

Elon added, “If you have an emergency, it will hold its lane and gradually come to a stop and even call the emergency services. It’s a massive increase in safety.”

As for reliability, Tesla is putting its money where its mouth is by guaranteeing the drivetrain for 1 million miles. However, Elon Musk clarified that the guarantee covers not breaking down due to the drivetrain, implying that if two of the four motors broke this would not technically be covered, as the truck would still be operational.

Tesla also suggested that the brakes would “last forever”, as the vehicle’s regenerative braking system recovers otherwise lost energy rather than relying on the hydraulic brakes.

The Tesla app provides remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, location tracking and offers a degree of fleet management.

The big question: Cost. Tesla’s Musk said, “We realised the economics of trucking matter tremendously. If the cost per mile is too high, it doesn’t make economic sense.

Taking lease, maintenance, and all the costs into account, the true cost of trucking – the diesel truck will be 20% more expensive.” Tesla cited their calculations of a diesel truck costing $1.51/mile, whereas the Tesla Semi will cost $1.26/ mile. Tesla says the Semi provides an estimated $200,000+ (approx. £151,700) in fuel savings and a two-year payback period (return on investment). Total operating costs were calculated thus; over a 100-mile route (A-B-A) at 60mph average speed, carrying 80,000lbs (40 tons)GVW, with diesel costs at $2.50/gallon and $0.7/kWh electricity.

The company also teased a gargantuan pickup truck that, in Elon Musk’s own words, “can carry a pickup truck”. He joked that it can also be legally driven, though he didn’t feel this would be very sensible and “shouldn’t be legal, but is”.

Pre-orders for the Tesla Semi have opened, with start of production and first deliveries due in 2019.

Aerodynamic The sleek shape was described by Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, as being like that of a bullet. With a drag coefficient of 0.36cd, the Semi is slicker than a Bugatti Chiron.

Cockpit  The cockpit features a central driving position and enough headroom for passengers to stand. Surrounding the steering wheel are two touchscreens that relay driver information, as well as fleet management software and connection.

Toughened Glass  ‘Armoured’ glass surrounds the cockpit, which Tesla say will help prevent breakages that can typically occur once a year on regular tucks, causing the vehicle to be inoperable while waiting for replacement and repair.

Autonomous Equipped with an enhanced Autopilot – Tesla’s proprietary autonomous driving aids – automatic emergency brake and much more, the Semi is safer than traditional trucks. What’s more, if in lane keep assist mode and no input is detected from the driver, it will gently slow the truck to a halt and call the emergency services.


Rather than an engine, the nose hides a void, which serves as additional stowage for the driver.


500 miles from a single charge, at an average speed of 60mph.


The Semi is said to be able to travel at a constant 65mph up a gradient of 5º and acceleration from 0-60mph takes just 5 seconds. Add a 40 ton trailer and it takes 20 seconds.


Tesla has stated a network of Megachargers – solar power backed with batteries and high-output charge points – that will enable travel “all over the world”. These chargers can provide the Semi with 400-miles range in just 30 minutes.


Tesla’s Elon Musk enthused that jackknifing is now a thing of the past, and “impossible” to do in the Semi, thanks to the independent four motors driving its rear wheels, that are automatically and individually controlled.

Trailer attachment

The Semi features adaptable flaps toward the rear of the cab that close the gap between it and the trailer, thus aiding aerodynamics and improving efficiency.

Four Motors

Each of the four rear wheels has its own electric motor. Tesla says that even if two fail, the Semi will still be quicker than a current diesel equivalent. 

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