Tesla Semi Struggles: Real-world Trials Challenge Promised Performance and Reliability

Tesla Semi Struggles: Real-world Trials Challenge Promised Performance and Reliability

During its unveiling in 2017, the Tesla Semi was touted with a range of up to 500 miles (800 km), acceleration to about 100 km/h in just five seconds, and semi-autonomous driving capabilities.

By the end of 2022, the initial vehicles were delivered and have been in operation for about a year. However, according to an insider report on Motorhead, real-world experiences paint a concerning picture regarding the Semi’s capabilities compared to its initial promises.

As per a Pepsico employee using the Tesla truck, the practical maximum range appears to be around 640 km. This contradicts Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s statement at the end of 2022, claiming the vehicle traveled 800 km on a single charge.

Reliability is also a significant issue. The consistent use of the batteries leads to problems, often resulting in failures. Issues with the drivetrain reportedly required 24/7 support from Tesla engineers since Pepsico was unable to maintain the vehicles independently.

Tesla exacerbates the problems by using components from passenger cars. The Tesla Semi incorporates a double wishbone suspension and a three-motor system from the Model S Plaid—parts considered unsuitable for the rigorous demands of commercial trucking. One such motor delivers 760 kilowatts of power.

In December 2022, a truck driver exposed weaknesses in the Tesla Semi, particularly regarding its cabin. It was noted that a lot of space is wasted, affecting driver comfort. The central seating position makes overtaking and visibility to the rear and front challenging. Additionally, passing documents out of the window at borders or toll booths is impossible.

The rear doors in the cabin also pose a problem for drivers, consuming space for a walkway and preventing the installation of a bed. Moving around the cabin leads to quicker dirt accumulation, creating extra work.

Interior is unconventional

The vehicle’s layout is unusual: the driver’s seat is positioned in the center of the cockpit, flanked by two touchscreens. The truck features independent drives on the rear axles. The massive glass panes are shatterproof, preventing a cracked pane—something that would render other trucks inoperable—from causing a vehicle failure.

The report suggests that Tesla has only managed to produce around 90 Tesla Semis thus far. The state of California heavily subsidized the project and covered the costs for Megachargers and other infrastructures.

Shortly after the truck’s announcement, logistics companies like UPS, DHL, and FedEx, as well as retail chains like Walmart and Pepsi, reserved several vehicles.

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Mark Brannon
Tech journalist Mark Brannon explores the digital frontier, delivering engaging news and in-depth features on cutting-edge innovations and industry developments.