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Production of Tesla Semi and 4680 batteries to expand at Gigafactory in Nevada


In a speech on January 23, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo told his audience that Tesla plans to invest an additional $3.6 billion to expand its gigafactory, for the first time in history, outside of Reno. The expansion will add two manufacturing facilities to the existing gigafactory – one to produce Class 8 Tesla Semi electric trucks and the other to produce 100 GWh per year from 4,680 battery cells. Between them, Tesla plans to add 3,000 new workers. The next day, Tesla published a blog post saying:

Since 2014, we have invested $6.2 billion in Nevada and built the 5.4 million square foot Gigafactory, the cornerstone of our mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The development alone provided 17,000 local construction jobs. To date, the Gigafactory Nevada team has successfully produced:

    • 7.3 billion battery cells (37 GWh+ per year)
    • 1.5 million batteries
    • 3.6 million drives
    • 1 million power modules (total 14 GWh+)

To carry out this work, we directly hired more than 11,000 people in the team.

We will be investing an additional $3.6 billion to further develop Gigafactory Nevada, adding 3,000 new team members and two new plants: a 100 GWh cell 4680 plant (with enough capacity to produce enough batteries for 1.5 million light-duty vehicles per year), as well as our first large-scale semi-finished product. The Semi is our all-electric hybrid truck with a range of 500 miles and an energy consumption of less than 2 kWh per mile.

Thanks to the Tesla team, our supply chain partners and the local community for making it possible to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy at Gigafactory Nevada.

Tale of the Tesla Semi

The Tesla Semi followed a familiar trajectory for the company. This was first announced by Elon Musk in 2017 amid a flurry of chatter. Little was heard about it at the time, aside from a few photos on social media of trucks driving around the outskirts of the factory or charging at Supercharger locations here and there. Just last December, a few semi-finished products were delivered to Frito-Lay in a highly publicized ceremony in Nevada.

Since work has not yet begun on the new plants in Nevada, we can assume that there are 18 to 24 months left before the start of mass production. In other words, cars won’t hit America’s roads in large numbers until at least 2024. It’s been 7 years since the original announcement, which is right on schedule in the magical world of Musk. It’s not like other companies make a lot of Class 8 electric trucks these days. When Freightliner or Volvo delivers 4 or 5 of these machines, it’s still big news. The decarbonization of the heavy truck industry will be slow.

There is a lot of work to be done. Charging infrastructure for Class 8 trucks is virtually non-existent today. Although Tesla developed its so-called Megacharger, which reportedly has charging power up to 1,000kW, today they only exist in Nevada or Fremont factories.

Electric Truck Business Case

No doubt Tesla has done the calculations to support its Semi production plan. Despite Elon claiming that driving a truck will be amazing, fleet operators care little more than bottom line. In the ultra-competitive world of trucking, costs are measured in tenths of a cent per mile over the life of each vehicle.

Electric trucks should have lower fuel costs as electricity is much cheaper than diesel fuel. They should also require less maintenance since their transmission has only a few moving parts compared to the thousands of parts humming and rattling inside a typical diesel engine and heavy duty transmission. On the other hand, adding charging equipment to a depot can be expensive, and the initial purchase price of an electric truck is higher than that of a conventional truck.

Lately, photos circulating on social media purporting to show one or two Tesla Semis wrecked on the side of a highway are not something that instills confidence in a fleet manager contemplating a multi-million dollar new car purchase. trucks. However, teething is to be expected for any new product. The expected useful life of a heavy truck is 10 to 12 years, but the Tesla Semi should still be seen as a less expensive alternative to a diesel tractor. A $40,000 federal tax credit for heavy-duty electric vehicles should also help.

At this point, Tesla hasn’t announced pricing or other specs for the Semi, so it’s hard to say with certainty where the break-even point for its electric trucks will be.

The Frito-Lay Experience

PepsiCo, the parent company of Frito-Lay, has placed an order for 100 Tesla Semi trucks and is reconfiguring its manufacturing and distribution center near Modesto, California to become a “showcase for sustainable manufacturing, warehousing and distribution technologies.” press release dated 18 January. It is the first Frito-Lay manufacturing facility to introduce alternative fuel vehicles, on-site renewable energy production, energy storage equipment and employee electric vehicle charging stations, the company said.

A public image is a valuable asset for any company, although its exact value cannot be determined. “At Frito-Lay and PepsiCo, we are committed to working within our planet and inspiring positive change. The transformation to Modesto is in direct support of our commitment to PepsiCo Positive (pep+) to create a circular and inclusive value chain and achieve zero emissions by 2040,” said Stephen Williams, CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America. “To date, the Frito-Lay Modesto conversion has resulted in a 91 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from direct fleet operations.” The Modesto object now boasts:

  • Three yard electric tractors BYD 8Y. Each garden tractor runs 20 hours a day and moves more than 150 trailers while charging just two hours a day.
  • A 1 megawatt solar canopy with energy storage that doubles the facility’s solar generation capacity, complementing the 1 megawatt rooftop solar panels.
  • 12 Crown Lithium Ion forklifts with Lithium Ion batteries for improved energy and time efficiency.
  • 2.7 MWh of on-site battery to help reduce on-site energy costs and maintain grid capacity by reducing the site’s electrical load on the grid during peak hours.
  • Tesla electric trailers on the road and four 750kW Tesla charging stations provide up to 400 miles of range in 1 hour of charging.
  • 38 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered Volvo VNL tractors powered by CNG with RNG attributes from the nearest public CNG filling station owned and operated by Beyond6.
  • Six Peterbilt 220EV electric vans that provide zero-emission last mile delivery to Modesto.
  • Seven dual-head electric vehicle charging stations capable of charging up to 14 vehicles simultaneously.

Industry transformation

New York Times correspondent Jack Ewing wrote this week: “If Tesla [Semi] is a success, it could put pressure on well-known truck manufacturers that automakers have faced over Tesla electric vehicles and SUVs. The success of Tesla vehicles forced General Motors, Ford Motor, Volkswagen and other automakers to respond with electric vehicles of their own, turning the industry upside down.

“But it’s unclear how many truck buyers will switch to electric vehicles, and how quickly. Fleet owners pay close attention to the cost of ownership of the vehicles they buy, carefully calculating fuel prices, maintenance and driver downtime. A Tesla semi-trailer will likely cost more than a regular heavy truck and will only be attractive if customers realize they can make up the difference with lower fuel and maintenance costs.”

He is right. Despite all the hype and Tesla’s hopes, electric trucks will have to prove themselves in the workplace. The final chapter on the Tesla Semi and heavy-duty electric vehicles in general has yet to be written.

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