Tesla's new semi truck has a 500 mile range

Key Points
  • Tesla Semi truck will have a higher range than some expected
  • The Semi is more economical than diesel when factoring in the total cost of owning, said CEO Elon Musk
Tesla just threw in a major surprise at the semi truck unveiling: a revamped Roadster
Tesla surprised everyone at the semi truck unveiling with a revamped Roadster

Tesla unveiled the Tesla Semi truck on Thursday.

The truck can drive 500 miles on a single charge, which was higher than some analysts had expected. That may mean that, in terms of range, the vehicle could meet the needs of long haul truck drivers.

"That is 500 miles at maximum weight, at highway speed, so you are doing 60 mph," Tesla CEO Elon Musk told a crowd in Los Angeles Thursday night. "That is the worst case scenario."


Musk said the truck can beat a diesel truck in a straight line, up a 5 percent grade, and even without two of its four independent motors functioning.

The truck can go from 0-60 in 5 seconds by itself, or in 20 seconds with an 80,000 pound load.

And Musk said the truck will beat diesel trucks in terms of price per mile when the total cost of ownership is factored in, Musk said.

Musk also said the truck drives far more easily than diesel trucks.

The interior of the Tesla Semi

Every truck will come with Autopilot standard. The truck's low center of gravity will make it difficult for the truck to rollover, and impossible to jack-knife, Musk said.

Tesla will also build a network of Tesla "Megachargers" that will charge the trucks' batteries to a 400 mile range in 30 minutes.

The company will guarantee the truck will not break down for 1 million miles, Musk said.

A Tesla Semi electric transport truck.
Source: Tesla

"We are guaranteeing it won't break down for a million miles because it has four independent motors," Musk said. "You can lose 2 of those 4 motors and the truck will still keep going."

Musk said a convoy of Tesla Semi trucks would even be more economical than freight by rail.

Analysts have expressed some skepticism that any electric truck can currently compete with the diesel trucks that dominate commercial trucking. Unlike luxury car buyers, trucking companies are primarily concerned with which trucks make most sense for their own financial bottom line.

"The biggest challenge Tesla faces with its semi is customers," said Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "These are business people not fans, and they will need convinced that this truck is better for their balance sheet than existing technology. It probably is, based on the specs provided, but this isn't necessarily a slam dunk."

Tesla unveils its bid at a commercial truck as it faces other challenges, particularly around the production of its Model 3 sedan.

The company reported its biggest quarterly loss in history in the third quarter, weeks after saying it had fallen far short of its delivery targets for the Model 3.

As it attempts to address what Tesla has called "production bottlenecks" and boost production, Tesla has faced some criticism over its relationship with some members of its workforce.

Among other things, Tesla was accused of being a "hotbed of racism" in a proposed class action lawsuit filed Monday in Alameda County, California. Tesla said the suit is a "hotbed of misinformation" and disputes several of the claims it makes. The United Auto Workers union also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in October over Tesla's firing of hundreds of workers.

Still, the company's stock price has soared in recent months. Shares of Tesla are up just over 47 percent since the beginning of the year.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the Tesla Semi can travel 65 miles per hour on a 5 percent grade.