Tesla’s all-electric semi came into this world to great fanfare, but little has been said about how the automaker plans to start making the vehicle. But now we have some insight, thanks to a new report from Reuters, which says Tesla’s collaborating with major companies to build charging stations for the semis.
Tesla’s teaming up with Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo and United Parcel Service (UPS) to build charging facilities at the companies’ respective sites, Reuters reported.
Details of the partnerships, which have not been disclosed previously, are still being hammered out, but include design and engineering from Tesla, the companies said. They declined to disclose what portion of the building costs, if any, Tesla would pay, or whether Tesla would be compensated for its work.
The firms are among nine major corporations that have placed pre-orders for Tesla’s truck, dubbed the Semi.
With questions swirling over whether Tesla can make good on its aggressive timetable, news of the collaboration is a sign that corporate customers are taking the effort seriously, and that Tesla is working to solve one of the biggest impediments: keeping the big-rigs powered.
Companies that spoke with Reuters said the first step is to install charging equipment on their own premises. The Semis would be limited to routes that would get them back to home base before the batteries are spent, the firms said.
Indeed, Tesla already has several hundred semis pre-ordered by the likes of Walmart and Sysco, and CEO Elon Musk swears the company can start making them by 2019. It’s an aggressive timeline that turned off some prospective customers—at least for now, reports Reuters, and even one Tesla co-founder thinks the semi venture won’t be helpful for the automaker in the long run.
Ian Wright, a Tesla co-founder who now runs his own company making electric powertrains for industrial trucks, is skeptical that truck charging stations can be a big money maker for Tesla.
He estimated the capital costs for batteries alone would be $15 million for a single station.
“I am not seeing any profit in the energy brokering for Tesla,” said Wright, whose Wrightspeed powertrain venture is based in Alameda, California.
At the November reveal event, Musk said the trucks can jet 0-60 in 5 seconds and the higher-end trim will carry a claimed range of 500 mph on a single charge. The question of where Tesla’s going to build the semis still remains unanswered, but the charging infrastructure question is arguably more important. Without the infrastructure, what’s the point of buying a truck?
But if the company can create a vast charging network for truckers within the next couple of years remains to be seen. Tesla still bleeding cash while it works to ramp up production of the Model 3 sedan, which has already been ensnared with delays. Tesla did raise more than a half-billion dollars this week of bonds, in a deal that’s backed by auto leases. So, at least it has some additional cash to keep things moving ahead.