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Daimler Trucks Executive: "If Tesla Semi Delivers, Something Has Passed Us By"

After the euphoria following the vehicle's unveiling - further boosted by the presence of the next-gen Roadster sports car - had passed, a lot of people were suddenly finding themselves saying: "wait a minute..."
Tesla Semi 1 photo
The doubt was caused by the numbers claimed by Tesla Semi's, especially when put into context with two other things: its release date - 2019, which knowing Tesla, means December 31 2019 at best - and its price - $150,000 for the base version (300 miles) and $180,000 for the long-range one (500 miles).

Based on the efficiency revealed by Elon Musk, most analysts seemed to agree the Semi would need a battery pack of roughly 1 MWh (1,000 kWh, or at least ten times bigger than anything Tesla currently has on offer). With today's technology and prices - and even the ones estimated for 2019 - selling the Semi for the advertised prices would very little to help with Tesla's profitability. In fact, it would probably sink it.

Martin Daum, the big honcho at Daimler Trucks, seems to agree. Talking to the journalists after the unveiling of the Mercedes-Benz eActros heavy-duty electric truck, he expressed his doubts (via Bloomberg): “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.”

Looking at the numbers, it's easy to understand Mr. Daum's skepticism: the eActros has a 240 kWh battery pack, a maximum payload of 23 tons, a maximum range of 200 km (124 miles), and unknown acceleration and price; by contrast, the Tesla Semi will carry double that for more than double the range (500 miles/800 km, as we've said) as well as accelerate at a blistering pace, all for a mere price of $180,000. It does indeed seem as if Tesla is coming from another planet where different laws of physics (but also economy) apply.

However, the Daimler official is missing something. First of all, look at what the Tesla truck looks like, and then gaze at the eActros as well. Notice anything different? Ignoring the importance of aerodynamics and how much air friction affects efficiency is a mistake electric truck manufacturers won't have the luxury of ignoring anymore.

And then there's the whole battery discussion. Tesla invested over $1 billion in the Gigafactory, and it did so with a purpose in mind: cutting down the cost of battery manufacturing to a minimum. Does Daimler have anything similar? Plus, Tesla has proven so far to be well ahead of its competitors regarding the performance of its electric drivetrains in passenger cars, so why should heavy-duty trucks be any different?


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