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Tesla CEO Elon Musk starts the first semi-truck deliveries

Tesla CEO Elon Musk begins deliveries of the company’s heavy-duty truck, the Semi, at the Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.

Tesla Inc.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk began deliveries of the company̵[ads1]7;s first production semi-trucks on Thursday, speaking on stage at the company’s factory in Sparks, Nevada, with Dan Priestly, the company’s senior manager of semi-truck engineering.

As CNBC previously reported, Tesla set up lines and started production of the Semi outside of Reno this year at the site where it primarily makes the battery cells, drive units and battery packs that power its cars. Musk and Tesla did not say Thursday how many Semis they are delivering.

Tesla originally showed off the semi design in December 2017. Production was delayed due to the Covid pandemic and problems with battery cell supply, among other things.

During the delivery launch event, Musk briefly alluded to the tumult of the past five years, saying, “Sorry for the delay.”

He later thanked and handed over the microphone to representatives from PepsiCo Fried Laywhich is Tesla’s first customer to receive and use production semi-trucks.

A big difference between Tesla’s Class 8 offering and other heavy trucks is the location of the steering wheel and driver’s seat. Instead of using the left side (or right side in Europe), Tesla designed the Semi with the steering wheel in the center of the cab with touchscreens located on both sides of the driver.

While the Tesla Semi was under development, other all-electric heavy trucks were launched on the market.

Volvo-owned Renault Trucks and Daimler has produced and delivered electric heavy trucks to customers before Tesla Even besieged Nicholas — whose founder was ousted and convicted of fraud in recent months — began production of a battery-powered electric truck in March.

But Tesla boasts some high-tech features not available elsewhere, including a new fast-charging system and a battery with a longer range than the competition. The DC fast charging system delivers up to 1MW, and uses a water-based coolant to ensure it’s safe to deliver that power. Tesla says the Semi can travel 500 miles on a single charge while fully charged.

The new fast-charging technology will eventually be installed at Tesla SuperCharging stations and used to power Cybertrucks, the consumer car Tesla is planning, Musk revealed. The company plans volume production of the sharp-edged, heavy-duty pickup truck at its new plant in Austin, Texas.

A return to form

The Tesla Semi event may provide relief to fans concerned about his commitment to and focus on the electric car industry.

Musk has recently taken on new duties as owner and CEO of Twitter, the social media giant, which he bought in a leveraged buyout for $44 billion in October. He sold some of his substantial Tesla stock to finance that deal. Since taking over Twitter, he has been involved in several conflicts and controversies surrounding this platform.

Musk returned to form Thursday, speaking to Tesla’s environmental mission and the company’s vehicle technology.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk starts the first semi-truck deliveries

In the United States, he said, there are something like 15 million passenger vehicles and about 200,000 heavy trucks. “It seems like a small percentage,” he said, but the semi-trucks represent a large portion of harmful vehicle emissions due to their size, weight and the fact that they are driven around the clock.

These emissions can have dire health effects on people living near warehouses, ports and other roads with heavy truck activity.

According to transportation and air quality research by the American Lung Association, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (such as vans, short- and long-haul trucks) represented about 6% of the US road fleet as of 2020. These vehicles generate a large amount of pollution, including 59% of ozone and particulate nitrogen oxide emissions, and 26% of greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

Musk said the Semi will not only help fight climate change, but “It’s also quiet, will improve the quality of your air and will improve the health of people who live near highways.”

The same can be said of other electric heavy trucks that are displacing diesel vehicles.

Musk and other executives did not discuss Tesla’s driver assistance systems, which are marketed as Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability, at the Semi delivery event. In 2017, when Musk debuted the Semi, he heralded a driverless trucking future.

They also did not discuss how many trucks they plan to produce over the next year, or how they will obtain additional battery cells and raw materials to produce them.

Shares of Elon Musk’s auto business closed flat ahead of the event, at $194.70, and were little moved in after-hours trading.

See the entire delivery arrangement here.

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