Tesla Semi order books open, $20,000 deposit required

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Five years after it debuted alongside the new Tesla Roadster, the Tesla Semi takes another big step toward production. The automaker opened up order books for the Class 8 tractor, and dropped a few crumbs about trims and performance as well. A $20,000 deposit reserves a spot for one of two Semi variants, one that costs $150,000 and has a range of 300 miles, and one that costs $180,000 and has a range of 500 miles. There are a lot of questions still to answer, but looking strictly at the price column, the numbers aren’t bad. An old-school Peterbilt 389 with a sleeper is going to run well over $250,000 new, while the current fuel champ the Freightliner Cascadia with a sleeper wants at least $180,000.

Tesla says the four motors turning the two back axles can get a fully loaded, 80,000-pound Semi and trailer to 60 miles per hour in under 20 seconds — but we’re not sure who cares about that. More importantly, those motors are said to be able to get that maxed-out truck up a 5% grade at 60 miles per hour, which every trucker and every other car on the highway would be thrilled about.

Battery sizes haven’t been disclosed yet, but Tesla says the rig uses less than 2 kWh per mile. If we’re just plugging in numbers, we’d expect the battery packs to be somewhat less than 600 kWh and 1,000 kWh.  

The Semi still needs to make the biggest step of all, which is entering production, and we don’t know any more about that, either. CEO Elon Musk said there’d be no new Tesla models this year because of the global industrial situation, but that engineers will “do a lot of engineering and tooling, whatnot to create those vehicles: Cybertruck, Semi, Roadster, Optimus, and be ready to bring those to production hopefully next year.” The subtle caveat that came after that line was, “That is most likely.”

In the meantime, Freightliner has launched its eCascadia, Volvo just launched its FMX heavy duty tractor, and Nikola finally has its battery-electric truck leaving its facilities in Chandler, Arizona. None of them match the range of the Tesla Semi, and we haven’t heard of a soon-to-be-released battery-electric tractor that will, so the crown is still Tesla’s to claim next year. Assuming the Semi gets released.

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