Waiting on the Tesla Semi

Tesla semi

Tesla (TSLA)  plans to put “limited volumes” of its heavy-duty truck on the road in 2020, CEO Elon Musk said during the company’s earnings call last week, but faster production requires a massive ramping up in battery power.

“That’s part of the reason why we have not, for example, really accelerated production of the Semi,” Musk said. “[It] means making fewer Model 3 or Model Y cars. It uses a lot of cells.”

Walmart (WMT), UPS (UPS) and Anheuser-Busch are among the customers that collectively ordered thousands of the all-electric Semis when the heavy-duty vehicle was announced with much fanfare in 2017.

At that point, Tesla said production would start in 2019, only to retract that statement in later guidance announcements.

The trucks are expected to cost around $150,000 with a 300-mile range; at $180,000, the trucks are expected to travel 600 miles.

The latest objective is to achieve a couple of thousand gigawatt hours a year in battery production, Musk said during the earnings call. 

“The thing we are really going to be focused on is increasing production capacity. That is fundamental, and very difficult,” he said.

Tesla is planning a “battery day” sometime in April “to explain more about this and what our plans are,” Musk said.

Among those likely to attend battery day are customers who put down $5,000 to $20,000 deposits for the electric trucks several years ago.

Of the 100 Tesla Semis that PepsiCo has preordered, the beverage company expects about 15 to be delivered this year to the company’s Modesto, California, Frito-Lay manufacturing site, spokesperson Natalie Ilseng told FreightWaves.

Molly Kunst, a spokesperson for Anheuser-Busch, confirmed a preorder for 40 Tesla semi-trucks but declined to comment on anticipated delivery dates.