If the fully electric Tesla Semi lives up to the company’s claims, it will be far quicker than any other normal-production tractor-trailer on the market, capable of accelerating to 60 mph in just five seconds with no load or in just 20 seconds—the same as an empty diesel semi—when pulling a trailer that increases the gross weight to 80,000 pounds.
The Semi was recently caught by YouTube user Brandon Camargo in action on a residential street in Santa Clara, California, not far from Tesla’s headquarters. Only tire roar and a fair amount of motor whine are heard—a whisper compared to the decibel levels emitted by today’s turbo-diesel semis. The Tesla Semi also looks to be quick—as it should be, given that it isn’t pulling any sort of load.
The Semi will need to be more than just quick and quiet, however. It will need to deliver , too, at the level that fleet managers demand. And it potentially will have a lot of competition in the EV realm, as nearly every major commercial truckmaker is working on an electric-powertrain project—including .
There are also some reality checks on which Tesla still has to pass muster. The Semi will require a new Megacharger system just to get the massive battery pack—capacity not yet disclosed—charged up for each haul. As , Tesla has made some claims with both the Semi and Roadster, which it showed together in November, that don’t quite compute given the current state of battery technology. So the Semi may be relying on some other energy-storage innovations to reach its claimed driving range of up to 500 miles when loaded.
Orders are coming in quickly, including some high-profile ones from PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart, among others. By some tallies, more than 375 orders have already been publicly announced by various companies. Perhaps Tesla will indicate the number of orders during its next financial-results update on February 7.
Tesla has a history of production kinks and delayed deliveries. If it can bring this truck to market, on time, starting in 2019, and in all the ways that fleets expect, it could help spur an entirely new wave of innovation in the commercial-truck industry—in much the same way the Model S has stoked interest in electric cars.