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Tesla shares pop after trucker JB Hunt reserves 'multiple' semitractor-trailers

  • J.B. Hunt Transport Services announces it has reserved "multiple Tesla Semi tractors."
  • The trucking company makes its statement a day after Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled an electric semi.
  • "We believe the large U.S. market will support sales of the Tesla Semi as we think the vehicle should be competitive with many traditional heavy-duty trucks, and exceed performance of existing electric trucks," Baird Equity Research senior research analyst Ben Kallo says in a note.
Source: Tesla

Tesla shares jumped Friday after J.B. Hunt Transport Services announced it has reserved "multiple" new electric semis just unveiled by Elon Musk.

Tesla shares spiked 4.5 percent in morning trade before closing 0.8 percent higher at $315 a share.

"We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new, sustainable technology," John Roberts, president and chief executive officer at J.B. Hunt, said in a statement.

Wal-Mart also said Friday the retail giant is planning to test the Tesla trucks and has actually preordered 15.

In an expansion from personal vehicles, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled an electric semitractor-trailer Thursday that has a 500-mile range on a single charge and is electronically connected with a fleet's management system. The vehicle allows the driver to stand and puts the steering wheel in the center with a touchscreen panel on both sides of the driver. Musk said the truck is set to go into production in 2019, although the company has fallen far behind on its production schedule for the Model 3 mass market consumer vehicles.

"TSLA unveiled the Tesla Semi, a heavy-duty truck we believe could be disruptive to trucking markets given the strong specifications (~500 mile range) and low expected cost of ownership (potentially ~20% less expensive per mile than traditional trucks)," Baird Equity Research senior research analyst Ben Kallo and his team said in a Friday note.

"We believe the large U.S. market will support sales of the Tesla Semi as we think the vehicle should be competitive with many traditional heavy-duty trucks, and exceed performance of existing electric trucks," Kallo said.

Baird has an outperform rating on Tesla with a price target of $411, based on Kallo's model, which does not include any revenue from the truck but factors in spending for research and development.

J.B. Hunt said it plans to deploy the electric trucks to its intermodal and dedicated contract services divisions to support operations on the West Coast.

"This news is not unexpected. Transportation companies are always looking for ways to lower operating costs given the competitiveness in the industry," Stephens Research Analyst Brad Delco said in an email to CNBC. "My assumption is that they will purchase a few trucks and test them in a more localized freight network before making a bigger purchases decision."

Savings could be in the tens of thousands of dollars per truck a year.

Musk said Thursday a Tesla truck would be 25 cents cheaper to operate per mile than a standard diesel truck, at $1.26 a mile versus $1.51.

The average number of miles driven a year per large truck is just over 100,000, according to industry analysts. That means each Tesla Semi could save a company at least $25,000 a year.

The U.S. Class 8 semitrailer market is about $30 billion in size so every 1 percent is worth $300 million, according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak.

— CNBC's Phil Lebeau, Michael Bloom and Robert Ferris contributed to this report.

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