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When Will Tesla Deliver Details on Semi Production?

Elon Musk shared an image of Tesla’s future this week – an all-electric Semi delivering a trailer full of electric cars. But, he didn’t share any additional details on when that future will arrive.

The Tesla Semi was first introduced in November 2017 with production slated to begin this year. The vehicle has attracted orders from the largest fleet operators in the world. And while Tesla has certainly given more specifics about the truck to those who have been willing to write big checks, there’s not a lot of concrete info available publicly.

The image Musk shared to Twitter appeared to be an outtake from a photo shoot, as a camera-rig-equipped Model S can be seen in the background. One would hope that an effort to publicize the vehicle means that the company is prepared to start assembling the Semi at scale. But, it’s tough to tell if Musk’s tweet was managing expectations for a delay or hyping the truck’s arrival later this year.

“We’ve been so mired in production & logistics for past 18 months. Really looking fwd to getting Semi into production,” Musk tweeted.

What’s the Manufacturing Plan?

Naturally, the tweet received replies from journalists looking for some specifics on the Semi’s production and logistics. We’re in the fourth month of the year production is supposed to start and Tesla has yet to name a manufacturing facility for the truck.

Bloomberg’s Dan Hull asked, “Will it be made in Nevada?”

CNBC’s Lora Kolodny asked, “Where will you be manufacturing it?” Getting more specific, “China, Fremont, Giga 1 or… Europe?”

Musk didn’t answer.

Waiting on Delivery

Tesla reportedly had pre-orders on the day it rolled out the prototype to the public. Around 450 orders were then placed within a couple months. Tesla hasn’t offered official order figures for the Semi, but Musk said in May of 2018 that reservations totaled “about 2,000” units. Tesla asks for a $20,000 deposit to secure the vehicle for order.

And, giant fleet operators lined up to place orders – UPS, FedEx, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch, J.B. Hunt and Walmart are among the carriers with Semis reserved.

PepsiCo, for instance, ordered 100 vehicles, assigning 15 of them for a “near zero-emission” distribution facility in Modesto, Calif. The project is a partnership with the California Air Resources Board’s effort to reduce air pollution. The state has agreed to cover half of the $30,764,486 Frito-Lay project, calling it “a bold and transformative effort that will yield a world-renowned showcase for economically and environmentally sustainable manufacturing, warehousing and distribution.”

Tesla is expected to deliver the 15 “highly anticipated” Tesla Semis along with battery electric truck charging infrastructure, a largescale solar PV system, and two energy storage systems for facility peak shaving and heavy-duty electric truck charging. The district anticipates the various equipment to be rolled out at different times to complete the demonstration, with full project completion in early 2021.

With that timeline, you would anticipate that within the next 12 months the first Semis will be hauling corn chips around the San Joaquin Valley.

Final Design

The Semi has been spotted testing on roadways around the country. Tesla has even provided the Semi to some reservation-holders for test drives.

For instance, TCI Transportation, a truck leasing company that ordered 50 Tesla Semi trucks, tweeted in January about being excited to view a “new Tesla Semi Tractor Prototype.” It’s assumed they saw an earlier prototype and this was their first chance to see feedback implemented.

Considering the truck should be months away from production, Tesla is likely making final changes to design and specs. And it seems like those specs should be released soon.

Tesla has said it will offer 300-mile and 500-mile range versions for $150,000 and $180,000 respectively. A “Founders Series” version sells for $200,000.

Tesla said the Semi is capable of 0 to 60 mph in 20 seconds with an 80,000 pound load; speed up a 5% grade at 60 mph; 300 or 500 miles of range depending on the model; energy consumption of less than 2 kWh per mile; and fuel savings of more than $200,000 over a million miles.

Then Musk tweeted that the Semi will do even better than the first specs announced.

“Am feeling optimistic about beating the Semi specs announced at the unveiling for the same price,” he said in a February 2018 tweet. “The Tesla Semi will be something really special.”

The original specs outpaced the industry standard. And, even better specs invited questions from Daimler AG’s head of trucks.

“If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously buy two trucks – one to take apart and one to test because if that happens, something has passed us by,” Martin Daum said at an industry event, according to Bloomberg. “But for now, the same laws of physics apply.”

So, will Tesla prove the Semi naysayers wrong this year? Will the vehicle actually go into production? Will it help Frito-Lay save the air quality of the San Joaquin Valley? Will we at least find out where the 2,000 waiting orders will be built?

Will we get a slick video from Tesla of an electric Semi delivering electric sedans? I’d bet on that, at least.