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Bloomberg Hyperdrive says Tesla Semi lacks batteries

I guess Bloomberg's Dana Hull is getting impatient with Elon Musk and Tesla.

Hyperdrive Daily: Tesla’s Semi Lacks Batteries, Loses Its Champion-BLOOMBERG

Dana Hull
June 16, 2021, 5:52 AM CDT

Will Tesla Ever Make the Semi?​

In November 2017, Tesla unveiled its all-electric Semi truck at a late-night event near Los Angeles. It was a realization of the updated master plan CEO Elon Musk drafted a year earlier, in which he vowed to extend the company’s lineup to “cover the major forms of terrestrial transport.”

While electric cars get all the buzz, the move to electrify big rigs is urgent in Tesla’s home state of California, where heavy trucks make up a large part of the state’s emissions profile and air quality and asthma rates near container ports have long been a major public-health issue.

So, almost a full five years after “ Master Plan, Part Deux,” what is the status of Tesla’s Semi program? There are a few prototypes, but the company doesn’t seem close to volume production.

Musk has suggested the Semi is essentially on hold until Tesla can make or source a new type of battery cell in high volume. The 4680 cells were one of the major highlights of Tesla’s “Battery Day” last fall. While the company plans to both make them in-house and procure them from long-time supplier Panasonic, they’re a ways off from being ready for prime time.

As my colleagues in Japan reported in April, the thicker and more voluminous cells named after their dimensions of 46 millimeters in diameter and 80 millimeters in height are still largely unproven. Some experts even question whether it will be possible to mass produce them.

During Tesla’s fourth quarter earnings call in January, Musk said the Semi “would use typically five times the number of cells that a car would use, but it would not sell for five times what a car would sell for.”

“It would not make sense for us to do the Semi right now, but it will absolutely make sense for us to do it as soon as we can address the cell production constraint,” he said.

Then, on April’s earnings call, Musk said volume production of 4680 cells was 12 to 18 months away.

The recent departure of Jerome Guillen, Tesla’s head of heavy trucking, is another troubling sign for the Semi. Guillen, who worked on Freightliner trucks while working for Daimler, joined Tesla in 2010 as the program director for the Model S, the company’s breakthrough electric sedan. He had been the biggest booster of the Semi program internally and briefly appeared on stage when Tesla unveiled it. Some viewed his transition from the role of automotive president to head of trucking earlier this year as a demotion.

So now I’m wondering: Is the Semi — without the battery cells that it needs and a major executive championing it — basically dead?

There’s at least one major factor that could keep the program alive: regulation.

Tesla earns money by selling regulatory credits to automakers that need help complying with car and light-truck emissions standards around the globe. Investors view this revenue as a double-edged sword — it’s a good racket (regulatory credit sales rose to a record $518 million in the first quarter), but they want to know Tesla can be profitable from its core business of making and selling its own cars.

California’s powerful Air Resources Board is developing regulation for heavy-duty vehicles with the goal of transitioning the state’s truck and bus fleet to zero emissions by 2045. It wants to achieve this even faster for segments such as last-mile delivery. The rule-making process has been lengthy, but the board has directed staff to bring the Advanced Clean Fleets regulation to them by the end of this year.

Tesla has always been savvy about taking advantage of subsidies. If California comes up with support and incentive structure for electric trucks, that could deliver just the sort of boost Tesla’s Semi program needs to survive.
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Tesla has always been savvy about taking advantage of subsidies. If California comes up with support and incentive structure for electric trucks, that could deliver just the sort of boost Tesla’s Semi program needs to survive.
This is an interesting point. The first 200,000 EVs manufactured by a manufacturer got a $7,500 Federal tax reduction and a $2,500 California discount, a similar incentive for electric trucks would make sense.
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