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Tesla reveals long-awaited Semi Truck and begins first deliveries

Tesla delivered Thursday evening the first production versions of its long-delayed electric semi truck five years after CEO Elon Musk revealed the commercial vehicle. The first Tesla Semi trucks were handed over to Pepsi at an event at the company gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. Pepsi placed an order for 100 trucks back in December 2017, when the Tesla Semi was first revealed. Other high-profile customers-in-waiting include Anheuser-Busch, Walmart and UPS.

Back in 2017, Tesla said Autopilot, the automaker’s advanced driver assistance system, would be on the Tesla Semi. At Thursday’s event neither Musk nor Dan Priestley, senior manager of Tesla Semi Engineering, mentioned any automated capabilities of the truck, nor discussed the placement of the cameras that would be needed for Autopilot to “see.”

However, Tesla did stay true to several of its other 2017 promises. For example, five years ago, Tesla said its Semi would be able to travel 500 miles on a single battery charge when fully loaded and driving 65 miles per hour.

The Semi uses the same powertrain as the Plaid Model S and Model X and relies on a “tri-motor system.” Priestley said that means one of the motors is constantly engaged for maximum efficiency and the other two are for torque and acceleration, which could come in handy if a driver was getting onto a loading dock or wanted to pass another vehicle.

“It can basically pull 82,000 pounds at cruise, and the only thing that’s doing it is a tiny little motor on one axle, We get to the bottom of the hill, and we have cold brakes,” said Musk. “That’s like mind blowing in the trucking world.”

The inside cab of the truck, as previously advertised, is built with the seat in the middle. Priestley said drivers would be able to stand up and change clothes within the cab, which is built with cargo space for tools, as well as charging ports.

“You’ve got efficiency in every aspect of the vehicle. There’s one touch suspension dump so it gets very easy to attach to the trailer. It saves time and money,” said Musk.

“Really we’re trying to extend the idea of this efficiency from not just while you’re on the road, but into the yard, as well. So before and after the truck has done its job on the road,” said Priestley.

“We’re coming off of a great launching pad with everything that’s done in the rest of our products already,” said Priestley. “It’s also enabled because Tesla’s got this whole vertical integration on the software and the hardware side, so the teams are working together to put all that together into one package. This is a huge win for all of our products, but particularly Semi.”

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