Elon Musk is on the loose again tweeting important details about Tesla’s future product lines. The multi-billionaire tech entrepreneur has announced that the Tesla semi-truck will be unveiled this September and will be “seriously next level”. He had previously spoken about a semi-truck that would be far better than anything on the road, and by reading into the statement one can presume that the next level he’s referring to is Level 4 or Level 5 autonomy.
Musk also previously stated in February that the “Model 3 is the overwhelming priority” but is making good progress with the semi-truck development. Former VP of Worldwide Sales and Service Jerome Guillen is now leading the development of Tesla’s Trucks and Programs initiative which began over a year ago. Guillen was previously General Manager of New Product development at Freightliner, an American truck manufacturer best know for its heavy duty class 8 diesel trucks. His LinkedIn profile lists his current position at Tesla as VP of Trucks and Programs.
“Jerome is driving the Tesla Semi & and is doing a great job with his team. At Daimler he lead the most successful semi truck program ever.” said Musk last year in reply to a tweet asking about Jerome’s return to Tesla.
The semi-truck market could be a huge market for Tesla, as 70% of US freight move through semi-trucks. We previously analyzed how Tesla could target the semi-truck market and the potential development issues. Though the potential market for Tesla is staggering, it’s also fraught with a lot of implications. Semi-trucks typically drive millions of miles and are some of the largest polluters in the world. Tesla’s electric truck could take thousands of these dirty trucks off the road, making our air cleaner and quieter, but battery technology and Tesla’s charging network would need to be able to support the extreme long distance travel and weight often associated with this industry.
One of Tesla’s co-founders, Ian Wright, has been targeting the commercial trucking industry for over a decade had been working on hybrid powertrains to help curb costs and emissions. Wrightspeed was founded in 2005 and has raised $40M in venture capital funding since. Ian Wright left Tesla when Elon Musk came onboard. The thought of an electric sports car didn’t resonate and he wanted to pursue an electric vehicle that solved larger pollution issues – trucks.
Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra, the electric bus maker, speculates that the Tesla semi-project could be more for internal use than initially expected. “A fairly reasonable idea would be to move battery packs from the Gigafactory downhill to the assembly plant in Fremont, California. The reason I say that could be viable is they’re fundamentally transporting battery packs. They could build battery packs and put them into a truck that’s optimized for the shipment of those packs, charge them with solar as a way of validating the pack, and transport them at maybe 50 or 60 percent state of charge.”
Only time will tell what Elon has envisioned for the future of the trucking industry.