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Tesla Semi production version will have closer to 600 miles of range, says Elon Musk

Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk commented on one our articles about the Tesla Semi. He said that he is “feeling optimistic about beating the Semi specs announced at the unveiling” last year.

Musk added today that he now expects the production version of Tesla Semi electric truck to have closer to 600 miles of range on single charge as the company is getting more insight as the vehicle is currently going through its test program.

Daimler’s head of trucks, Martin Daum, told reporters earlier this year that “Tesla Semi defies laws of physics and is passing us by if true”.

He was referring to Tesla’s claim that its electric semi truck can travel up to 500 miles with a 80,000-lb full capacity and it will cost only $180,000.

The executive said:

“If Tesla really delivers on this promise, we’ll obviously buy two trucks — one to take apart and one to test because if that happens, something has passed us by. But for now, the same laws of physics apply in Germany and in California.”

When asked about the comment during Tesla’s Q1 2018 conference call today, Musk laughed it off saying that Daum probably doesn’t understand the laws of physics.

Then he doubled down on his claims saying that he now thinks that the production version of the vehicle will actually have a range closer to 600 miles on a single charge.

Daum hasn’t been alone in doubting the specs of the Tesla Semi.

Several analysts and industry experts don’t see Tesla achieving them with the current battery technology, but Musk and Straubel insisted today that it can be achieved with the energy density of batteries today – stating that no battery breakthrough is needed and that they “can make a truck with 500 miles of range right now.”

Tesla Semi prototypes are now being tested on the road and have been spotted frequently over the past few months.

During the call, Musk also said that they currently have about 2,000 reservations with deposits for Tesla Semi, but he points out that they haven’t really been selling them and those reservations have been organic from the launch and subsequent coverage.

Electrek’s Take

Interesting to get an update on Musk’s expected specs for Tesla Semi, but I was particularly interested in the comments about a potential battery breakthrough needed to enable those specs.

Unfortunately, it seemed to focus primarily on the energy capacity needed for Tesla to achieve the range.

I wasn’t too concerned about that. If they can even have a greater range now, I assume that they managed to improve the efficiency of the vehicle.

But if Tesla needed a battery breakthrough for Tesla Semi, I thought it was more about a battery cost breakthrough, which I think is just as important as a battery capacity breakthrough.

Based on Tesla’s previously released efficiency specs, it sounds like the Tesla Semi’s battery pack will have a capacity of 800 to 1,000 kWh.

At what would currently be considered a market-leading pack-level price of $150 per kWh, that’s $120,000 to $150,000, which is way too expensive for the price that Tesla is advertising for the full truck.

Even $100 per kWh at the pack level, which Tesla previously said it didn’t expect to hit before 2020, it would mean $80,000 to $100,000. It might leave enough room for Tesla to build the rest of the truck and take a slight profit margin, but it sounds like a significant battery cost improvement is needed at least at some levels.

Are we considering a sub $100 kWh cost by 2019 a ‘battery breakthrough’? That’s the question.

With this said, I’m glad that Musk sees the range increasing even more. At this point, if efficiency is just that good, Tesla should maybe consider reducing the size of the pack and increasing the load capacity, which can also have a great impact on the economics of trucking.

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

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