Tesla Electric Semis Make Their Inaugural Run Hauling Cargo

The first two Tesla electric semis have just made their first trip hauling cargo. Fittingly, Tesla used it to ship battery packs from its Nevada Gigafactory to its car assembly plant in Fremont, California. The only question now is whether the automaker will really make the deadline it set next year to begin mass production of its electric semi.

CEO Elon Musk posted a photo showing two Tesla electric semis rolling away from the Gigafactory on Twitter and Instagram. The company has said that the semi has a 500-mile range, which makes the trip between Reno and Fremont the perfect exhibition, as the trip is about 240 miles each way. Tesla wouldn’t say whether its electric semis will attempt the trip without recharging in between, but it seems doubtful that they wouldn’t recharge at least part of the battery to ensure that the return trip goes off without a hitch.

Before that inaugural trip, there were several reports about Tesla electric semis without trailers being seen along the highway between the two cities, suggesting that the route was tested before cargo was added for the journey. The journey from the Gigafactory to Fremont also includes some mountainous terrain, which is also a good test for the truck’s range. Ars Technica notes that the trip starts at an altitude of 4,400 feet and then goes uphill to an altitude of 7,200 feet. Then the trip is downhill after Donner Summit and goes all the way down to sea level.

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CNBC notes that the Tesla electric semis pictured leaving the Gigafactory both have side-view mirrors, which is different than the prototype that was unveiled late last year. The automaker had said at the time that they planned to use cameras instead of mirrors on the sides to give the driver a bigger view.

However, even though the trucks that were used for this first hauling trip have side mirrors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the final product will have them. It also doesn’t mean that the side-view mirrors will just be standard mirrors. CNBC notes that during the testing process, prototype vehicles tend to have parts in “various stages of readiness.”

Analysts have been debating whether the Tesla electric semis can really deliver the 500-mile range that’s been claimed. If so, then the many orders the automaker has already received for its truck will increase quickly because it could save quite a lot of money on shipping costs. Daimler, which is planning to release its own electric semi in 2021, is watching Tesla’s effort carefully. The automaker revealed its eActros heavy-duty electric trucks in February, even boldly comparing it to Tesla’s trucks.

Daimler management told Bloomberg last month that what Tesla says its electric truck can do shouldn’t be possible with current EV battery technology. As a result, if the vehicle’s final specs do end up being as good as Tesla says they will be, Daimler plans to buy two of them—”one to take apart and one to test.” The automaker’s management said essentially that what Tesla has promised defies the laws of physics, although as Electrek pointed out recently, a partner participating in the automaker’s test program claims that the specs are real.