Tesla’s Semi Truck Strategy in North America, 2017–2025
Commercial vehicles, particularly Class 8 heavy duty (HD) trucks, are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the US Department of Energy, Class 8 trucks transport 80% of all goods in the United States and account for 22% of total energy use in transportation, burning through 28 billion gallons of fuel each year across 2.5 million trucks, each one racking up about a million miles annually. Around the world, these HD trucks account for 7% of greenhouse gas emissions and guzzle 17 million barrels of oil per day, with the demand growing by 1.9% per year, according to the International Energy Agency. Alternate fuel technology, either hybrids or complete electrification, is thus seen as a priority for trucks. Electrification goes a step further in significantly decreasing the total cost of ownership by drastically reducing fuel (energy) costs and cutting down on the maintenance costs associated with a diesel powertrain (as there are minimal moving parts in an electric powertrain).
The trucking industry, unlike the passenger vehicles industry, is slow to adopt innovative ideas and advanced technologies and is averse to change unless mandated by regulation or really appealing for the bottom line of fleets. Tesla is entering the HD electric truck space at a time when traditional OEMs that have been dominating the market are still toying with the idea of prototypes and product launches. Tesla’s Semi truck has always been in the pipeline and part of its Master Plan, Part Deux that also includes light trucks and passenger shuttles, all of which are expected to be zero-emission with autonomous driving capability.
An industry that has its own challenges such as low driver retention, high fuel costs, and a growing cost of ownership seems like a market that could test Tesla to the maximum. Tesla also faces stiff competition from established and experienced truck manufacturers as well as their loyal customers that are resistant to change. Whilst Tesla is convinced that fully battery electric vehicle (BEV) technology is mature enough to propel the Class 8 electric trucks market, other players such as Toyota and Kenworth and start-ups such as Nikola Motor Company are working on Class 8 electric truck prototypes running entirely on fuel cell (FCEV). Amongst traditional OEMs, Daimler, Peterbilt, and Volvo have already showcased electric trucks and are confident to face competition from new players looking to disrupt the market.
Tesla’s Semi claims to offer the highest driving range, 300–500 miles, amongst battery electric trucks in the market. Other competitive differentiators for the Semi are its acceleration, speed, connectivity, and advanced safety features (most likely be autonomous-ready). If Tesla manages to keep the promise of offering the Semi at an attractive price point of $180,000 without compromising on the payload and performance, the trucking industry will most likely undergo a tectonic shift. However, to achieve this, Tesla will have to manufacture batteries that cost 30–35% less and are more energy-dense than any other battery in the market by 2020. By establishing megacharger corridors with power derived from solar fields, Tesla can not only reduce the charging time for a 500 kWh battery to just half an hour (helping fleets improve their asset productivity), but also reduce energy costs. According to Frost & Sullivan, Tesla is estimated to achieve a market share of 40.2% to 54.1% in the North American heavy duty (HD) electric truck market. After its product launch, Tesla is expected to move towards more service-based offerings such as app-based solutions, digital retailing, leasing to make financing easier, and platooning through targeted acquisitions or partnerships.
This research report includes following segments:
North American Heavy Duty Truck Segment
Electric Truck Segment
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Key Issues Addressed
How Tesla plans to make a sustainable business case for its electric trucks?
The Semi’s feasibility in terms of weight and price?
Return on Investment (ROI) offered by the Semi to its customers?
Tesla’s growth scenario and its estimated market size and share in the future?
Tesla’s prospective plans for the commercial vehicle industry through other segments and services?
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