Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed today, on the eve of the New York International Auto Show that the company plans to unveil its all-electric semi truck, called ‘Tesla Semi’, in September.
He also teased that it will be “seriously next level” and briefly discussed the upcoming Tesla pickup truck and next-gen Roadster…
The CEO congratulated the Tesla Semi team for doing “an amazing job”. As we previously reported, Musk put Tesla’s Vice President of Vehicle Programs, Jerome Guillen, in charge of the automaker’s all-electric heavy truck program.
Guillen had previously been in charge of Daimler’s Cascadia semi truck program, which makes him particularly qualified to lead an electric truck program since he not only has experience with trucks, but he was also more recently the program director of Tesla’s Model S.
After taking a break in 2015, Guillen came back to Tesla in January 2016 and has been working with his team on the truck program since, which means that they would be about 2 years into the program at the time of the planned reveal in September 2017.
Musk also revealed today that the previously announced Tesla pickup truck will be unveiled within “18 to 24 months:
It leads us to believe that the semi truck is actually further along in the development process and that it could actually hit production before the pickup. It would make sense considering Tesla is rapidly pushing for autonomous driving and the potential impact of the technology on the trucking industry.
The company could leverage its work on the Autopilot and self-driving for its passenger cars into an autonomous driving technology for its semi truck, which could challenge Uber’s Otto:
The driver and the fuel are the two most important costs per mile in the freight industry and Tesla could make some significant improvements with both an electric and autonomous truck.
With this said, Musk did say that truck drivers will still be needed for ‘a few years‘ and therefore, Tesla Semi could possibly not be fully autonomous with the first generation.
In the meantime, the electric powertrain will likely be the main feature of interest. It will be interesting to see how Tesla approaches creating what will undoubtedly be its most powerful and high energy capacity powertrain to date.
In essentially killing its battery swap program, Tesla noted that battery swaps still make sense for fleet vehicles so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see this program re-emerge with Tesla Semi.
There will be some competition. One of Tesla’s co-founders, Ian Wright, now runs Wrightspeed, a company that builds hybrid battery heavy-duty trucks and another startup, Nikola Motor, is using batteries with a hydrogen/natural gas range extender technology to power its own semi truck.
Featured image: Fan rendering of the upcoming Tesla Semi by Germany-based designer Jan Peisert