By November 16, 2017 Read More →

Tesla Semi unveiled Thursday as company struggles with Model 3 roll out

Tesla Semi

The Tesla Semi will be unveiled on at 8 p.m. PST. Tesla image.

Tesla Semi release helps boost company shares

On Thursday evening, Tesla Inc. will unveil its Tesla Semi, the company’s prototype electric big rig truck, at a time when the Palo Alto based company is struggling to produce its Model 3 sedan.

The unveiling will be seen live, at at 8 p.m. PST.

Tesla’s Chief Executive Elon Musk says the Tesla Semi is the company’s next move to help the economy shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy products, including EVs, solar roofs and larger-scale battery storage.

Some analysts who spoke to Reuters are concerned the big rig will be an expensive distraction for Tesla.

The company has never posted an annual profit and currently finds itself in what it calls “manufacturing hell” over the sluggish startup of Model 3 sedan production.

Most of the companies pursuing electric cargo trucks are working on medium duty vehicles, whereas Tesla is looking to land a whale with the big rig market.

But, analysts say the power capacity, weight and cost of the batteries are all tough factors to overcome.  And there is some competition in the field.

Daimler AG, Navistar International Corp and Volkswagen AG are all vying to successfully substitute batteries for diesel engines to meet new environmental regulations introduced by governments.

Tesla is looking to go one step further with its Tesla Semi and make the big rig autonomous.  Many big trucks would be ideal to enter the early self-driving market as they often travel at consistent speeds and use interstate highways where there is little cross-traffic.

The trucks would travel in platoons where the first truck, driven by a human, acts as a guide for the other trucks.  The semis are linked electronically to do the same maneuvers executed by the lead truck.

The battery-powered truck will have a range of 200 to 300 miles, which is far less than some diesel trucks, some of which can travel up to to 1,000 miles on a single tank of fuel.

Critics are concerned that charging and maintaining electric semi trucks that would have to travel cross-country would be expensive and complex.  Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi told Reuters that a Tesla truck with a range of 300 to 450 miles would be able to meet less than half of the total needs in the semi-truck market.

Sacconaghi added “It is somewhat unclear why the company needs another major initiative … on its already full plate.”

Along with developing the technology, Tesla would have to invest a substantial amount of money to build a factory to manufacture the trucks.  Currently, the company is spending about $1 billion per quarter, mostly to streamline the Model 3 factory.  Tesla is also considering building vehicles in China.

Tesla shares have jumped 48 per cent this year, making the company the second largest US automaker by market value.

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