Since 2009 Tesla has fascinated us with technological marvels that seemed like science fiction more than science fact only a few short years beforehand. The first was the Roadster sports car, followed three years later in 2012 by the Model S, then the Model X in 2015 and finally by the Model 3 and Model Y in 2017 and 2020 respectively. In keeping up with Elon Musk’s seeming obsession with numerology, here we are three years removed from the latest Tesla introduction and sure enough, we have a brand new entrant into the fray, and it’s the biggest one yet… literally. Welcome, the Tesla Semi truck.
Beginning with a modified version of the ridiculously powerful Model S Plaid’s tri-motor setup, the Tesla Semi uses it in an inverted layout. Whereas the Model S Plaid uses one motor up front and two out back to help the S’ tires hook up for speed, the Semi has its dual motors situated over the trucks middle axle. This layout affords maximum traction to help the truck when it needs power the most, to get-up-and-go hauling cargo. Then, the single motor that is used in the front of the S, is used to drive the rear wheels of the truck out on the highway at speed, where less energy is needed to maintain speed. While no official numbers are out for the Semi, we can reasonably expect the Semi to make similar power to the Model S Plaid’s 1,020-horespower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque.
Battery power was always a big question mark when it comes to anything Tesla, and an even bigger concern for Semi truck-drivers, who are out on the road for extended periods of time without access to charging stations as easily as someone living in a suburb driving a Model X. The Semi sports a incredibly powerful 1 megawatt-hour (MWh). For those of us that are not quite as familiar with electricity as your average Back To The Future physicist, that equates to ten Model S batteries. Elon Musk claims that the Semi has a range of 2 kW per mile, which equates to a range of 500 miles. Of course, that is in ideal conditions, and we suspect that number will drop in colder weather.
Inside the Semi looks every bit the future that Tesla has shown us with its cars and trucks. The driver’s seat sits center-mount in the cockpit, flanked by two screens on either side that display all pertinent information. Cubbies, storage bins sit on the right side of the driver, along with cup holders, wireless phone chargers and toggle switches for various functions. The rear “windows” on the cab are faux, and there are big storage lockers behind the seat in place of what could be a sleeper cab. A small plane-style jump-seat is available, though not one we would want to sit on for more than an hour.
As of now, there is only one customer that has signed up for the Tesla Semi truck, but it’s a big one – PepsiCo, specifically their Frito-Lay subdivision. They have signed up to purchase 15 Semis from Tesla, with Musk’s company agreeing to pay for all repairs and service in their first year. That is a very smart move on Tesla’s part, as we’ve seen most problems come in first year roll-outs with countless other cars in the past.
The price of the Tesla Semi is still a secret, but these trucks are now out and about on the highways. While 15 may not seem like a lot, we didn’t see too many Model S examples running around in 2012, but a decade later, we can’t drive more than a few miles without crossing paths with one. The Semi is a huge deal, and the beginning of a paradigm shift in transit. We look forward to seeing exactly what Tesla has planned for 2026.