Tesla Semi program manager gives most detailed update on its BEV to date

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Updated May 23, 2024
Dan Priestley
Dan Priestley, senior manager of Tesla's Semi program, has headed the Semi program since its inception and its 2017 debut.

Tesla's fully electric Class 8 has been delayed at least four times and is five years overdue – not unfamiliar territory for a Tesla product launch. 

"Tesla has a specialty, and that is turning the impossible into merely late," Dan Priestley, senior manager of Tesla's Semi program, joked during a keynote address the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Las Vegas Monday. Priestley has headed the Semi program since its inception and its 2017 debut. "We are technologically ready. Now it's time for scaling." 

Tesla said in April first vehicle deliveries are planned for late 2025 with external customers starting in 2026. Priestley confirmed Monday that remains the plan. 

PepsiCo is the only fleet known to be piloting Semi in real world operations, running 15 Semis in the Modesto, California, area and about 21 in Sacramento. Priestley about 50 more are currently on their way to PepsiCo. 

Pepsi and two of its Semis late last year participated in the North American Council for Freight Efficiency's Run On Less program, running two different types of routes: long-haul routes that transport between 250 and 520 miles per run and with a gross vehicle weight plus load of up to 82,000 lbs, as well as other routes under 75 miles per day, hauling a diminishing load that leaves nearly full and lightens throughout the day as deliveries are made.

In that demo, Priestley noted, Pepsi was able to use megawatt charging to enable a range of over 1,000 miles. Priestley noted that Tesla has 50,000 DC fast chargers world wide, adding further rollout of that network will be critical in the long rage success of Semi and electric trucking as a whole. 

Priestley said the tare weight for the standard 300 mile range model was more than 20,000 pounds and 23,000 pounds for the 500 mile range model. The company, he said, has logged more than 3.5 million miles on Semi models to-date with a freight efficiency greater than SuperTruck 2.

"Electric is efficient. It allows you to move more loads with less energy," he said, adding Semi has achieved 1.7 kWh per mile. 

Priestley also claimed the truck is seeing more than 95% uptime, including preventive and unscheduled maintenance, adding the company has deployed a pilot group of service techs, using its group of passenger car technicians. 

"Were not looking to do everything on the heavy-duty side," he said, adding the company was working with PepsiCo to bring more Semi service in house, and that would be the plan for future heavy duty customers with maintenance capabilities. 

Many fleets have told CCJ anonymously that despite still holding reservations, and Tesla retaining the fleets' Semi deposit funds, they've not been given an update on their Semi order status or prospective delivery date in several years. Priestley didn't address trucks on back order Monday, but seemed to indicate fleets like Pepsi have priority as they have more control over what they haul, where it goes and when it needs to be there. 

"We see a lot pf promise early on with private fleets," he said, "but we are really trying to make a general product that serves everybody." 

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]
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