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Published: 10 August 2017      

Tesla Autonomous trucks on the way?

There is speculation that Tesla is set to launch a battery powered autonomous long-haul truck later in the year, but could this be for its own supply chain rather than traditional long-distance trucking?

A story on Reuters website yesterday reported that Tesla is developing “a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in "platoons" that automatically follow a lead vehicle”, has left the internet speculating that Tesla has made a major leap in battery technology. 

Elon Musk had earlier announced that Tesla would unveil an electric truck in September, but nothing has been revealed about how it plans to overcome the problem of the limited range of a battery vehicle, which experts believe would limit a truck to around 300 miles at most. 

WorldCargo News has not seen any of the correspondence cited by Reuters that has fuelled a string of reports that Tesla is on the verge of testing a "long haul" truck. In particular, much is being made of an email to the Nevada Department of Transportation where a Tesla official states: “To insure we are on the same page, our primary goal is the ability to operate our prototype test trucks in a continuous manner across the state line and within the States of Nevada and California in a platooning and/or Autonomous mode without having a person in the vehicle" (as quoted by Reuters).

Whatever its intentions for the commercial market, Tesla has a pressing supply chain issue of its own to solve in getting raw materials and components to its new “Gigafactory” in Reno Nevada, and then finished batteries to its vehicle production plant in Fremont California. 

It is possible Tesla is working on autonomous electric trucks with its own supply chain in mind, rather than the much longer routes common in US long-haul trucking. Elon Musk has previously tweeted that “Tesla logistics costs for Sparks-Fremont (batteries & motors) and Fremont-LA (finished cars) are gigantic”. The truck journey between the Gigafactory in Nevada and Tesla plant in Fremont is 269 miles, within the estimated range of a battery technology noted above, and the scope of the cross-state applications the company is reported to have made. 



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