This article was originally published on November 21, 2017 but is being updated as new information emerges.
After teasing an electric semi truck for months, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Semi at a special event in mid-November. And a host of major corporations have now placed pre-orders for the truck.
While diesel trucks in the same class (Class 8) often boast almost double the 500-mile range of the Tesla Semi, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics has noted that most freight shipments move less than 250 miles. There is a big difference there, but the Tesla Semi could be competitive for many of those average freight shipments.
There's also a big difference in upfront price. Citing a Carnegie Mellon study, Forbes reported that the cost of the Tesla Semi could be more than $200,000 (Tesla didn't release pricing information), while the cost of a diesel Class 8 truck is around $120,000.
Despite the disparities, major companies are showing interest. For starters, trucking giant J.B. Hunt placed an order for multiple Tesla semis (some reports say 40 trucks), leading to a jump in Tesla's stock price.
"We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new, sustainable technology," John Roberts, president and CEO of J.B. Hunt, said in a statement.
Walmart also pre-ordered 15 of the Tesla Semis, with a plan to deploy five of the trucks in the US and 10 in Canada. A company spokesperson told Business Insider that they'll be using the semis to test how the electric technology performs in their own supply chain, and whether or not it can help them meet goals around emissions.
Another major US grocery chain, Meijer, also pre-ordered a few Tesla Semis. Meijer placed an order for four trucks, putting a $5,000 deposit down for each truck.
Additionally, Canadian grocery chain Loblaws has pre-ordered 25 of the electric trucks, which could help the company reduce its carbon footprint.
Beverage giants are also making an investment in the new trucks. Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch has placed an order for 40 trucks and PepsiCo has reserved 100 Tesla Semis, Reuters reported. However, one of the largest orders came from UPS, which ordered 125 trucks to add to its fleet of vehicles.
While the pre-orders denote a definite interest in the electric truck, the low numbers seem to indicate that many companies want to experiment with the technology before fully committing to it. Most of the companies that have pre-ordered the trucks have existing fleets of hundreds or thousands of trucks.
Still, if the Tesla Semi can achieve stronger market penetration and shows up in more enterprise fleets, it could kickstart a massive disruption of the transportation and supply chain industries.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Tesla unveiled its electric semi in mid-November, and companies including Walmart, J.B. Hunt, Meijer, and Loblaws have pre-ordered the trucks.
- The trucks will be used by the companies to reduce fuel costs and lower emissions and carbon footprints.
- The low numbers of the pre-orders indicate an experimentation with the technology, not a full-scale rollout.
- IT leader's guide to the future of autonomous vehicles (Tech Pro Research)
- Tesla Semi: The big questions about costs, benefits ahead of trucking disruption (ZDNet)
- Elon Musk and the cult of Tesla: How a tech startup rattled the auto industry to its core (PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Five things you need to know about Tesla's new electric semi truck (ZDNet)
- Tesla Semi truck stands to shake up the trucking industry (CNET Roadshow)
- The Complete Machine Learning Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.