Musk has promised a long line of new vehicle possibilities, including the big rig, a pickup truck and, probably next up, the Model Y crossover.
Tesla said it will sell about 100,000 vehicles this year, most of them the luxury Model S sedan and Model X sport utility.
That number will include a trickle of Model 3s, a less expensive sedan. Tesla hopes to build several hundred thousand Model 3s a year, but the car is off to a slow start as Musk grapples with what he calls "production hell" at his factories.
The Tesla Semi will share some components with the Model 3, most notably its four electric motors. Not the battery pack, though. Tesla said the truck will have a different battery setup, more like those used in its Powerwall home and industrial storage units than to the batteries for its cars.
Michael Harley of Kelley Blue Book questions Tesla's strategic direction in targeting long-haul trucks.
"The company has incorrectly aimed its sights," he said. Batteries remain too heavy and expensive for long-haul routes, he said. "A more appropriate target ... would be the short-haul, or so-called last-mile delivery."
Most of the electric big rigs coming on the market will be built for short-haul routes, such as moving freight from an ocean port to a distribution center.
Platooning could change that equation. In a truck platoon, several big rigs pack up close enough together to be drawn along by the aerodynamic draft of the vehicle ahead, like cyclists lined up in a bike race. That would extend the range of the batteries in the following truck.
The distance is maintained by sensors attached to a computer. Platooning is legal in eight states including Michigan, Texas and Nevada. Limited testing is allowed in Florida and Utah. Human drivers are required in each truck.
Tesla may have one enthusiastic user locked up: Company watchers would not be surprised if Musk starts using the Tesla Semi to ship batteries 240 miles from Nevada to the Fremont assembly plant. But California law does not allow vehicle platoons.
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