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Elon Musk is ‘optimistic’ about beating Tesla Semi specs that competitors already don’t believe possible

As we reported last week and discussed on the Electrek podcast yesterday, many people still have a difficult time wrapping their head around the Tesla Semi specs that the company announced last year.

But now CEO Elon Musk says that he is ‘optimistic’ they can beat those specs with the production version of the electric truck.

Earlier this week, Daimler’s head of trucks suggested that the Tesla Semi specs defy the laws of physics and is passing them by if they are true.

The German automaker added itself to a long list of industry people with doubts about Tesla’s ability to deliver on those specs.

But Tesla is currently testing its electric truck with partners who get a better idea of the capacity of the machine.

Musk seems to be gaining confidence in the specs through the test program and yesterday, he commented on our article about DHL seeing greater potential savings than expected with the Tesla Semi:

Musk didn’t specify which specs in particular, but the article mainly involves the economics of operating a Tesla Semi, which is the most important thing for fleet operators.

Here are the main specs that Tesla revealed at the unveiling event:

  • Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph with 80,000 lb: 20 seconds
  • Speed up a 5% Grade:60 mph
  • Mile Range: 300 or 500 miles
  • Powertrain: 4 Independent Motors on Rear Axles
  • Energy Consumption: Less than 2 kWh per mile
  • Fuel Savings: $200,000+
  • Expected Base Price (300 mile range): $150,000
  • Expected Base Price(500 mile range): $180,000

Tesla estimates a payback period of about 2 years thanks to gas and maintenance savings.

Electrek’s Take

As we discussed on the Electrek podcast yesterday, the main problem with those specs is that based on current top of the line battery technology at the best cost possible, the battery pack required to achieve those specs would likely weigh over 10,000 lbs and cost well over $100,000 – leaving some important weight and cost restrictions for the rest of the tractor.

With this said, it’s not impossible and Tesla has surprised the industry in the past, but I would argue that achieving those specs in a production truck would be an astonishing engineering feat.

Now Musk is talking about beating those specs, which would be even more impressive.

My greatest concern is cost. Tesla doesn’t confirm its current battery cost, but it is estimated to be somewhere around $150 at the pack level.

The same cost for a 1 MWh battery pack, which would be required for Tesla to achieve a 500-mile range, would be $150,000.

There are likely going to be some cost improvements at the pack level due to the greater size, but it looks like a cost breakthrough (something closer to the mythical $100 per kWh battery holy grail) is almost needed for Tesla to make it work.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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