Elon Musk made a comment on Twitter implying that the production of the Tesla Semi could be delayed yet again due to an issue with the battery needed for it. The Tesla Semi was initially meant to see production in 2019 but is now officially slated to begin production later this year.
The production of the Semi currently depends on Tesla’s ability to produce the heavy-duty Tesla 4680 battery cell, which it announced at last year’s Battery Day. Elon Musk also announced a more efficient method for producing batteries at its factories. The new method will especially use less water and require fewer moving parts to produce batteries.
Tesla is currently producing the 4680 battery cell at its pilot plant in Fremont and might still produce some Semis this year, although it might not be able to ramp up production of the Semi as much as Musk would have liked until 2022. A large part of the issue appears to be delays in ramping up production capacity for the battery cell. The delays have also affected release of the Model S Plaid+, which also relies on the battery cell.
Although some experts have expressed doubts that electric semi trucks would ever be suitable for long hauls due to limitations in current battery technology, some corporations are interested in them for short hauls that take a day or less. Walmart Canada, for instance, has pre-ordered 130 Tesla Semis as part of efforts to eliminate carbon emissions in its operations by 2040.
Elon Musk has pushed his employees to speed up efforts to meet the original timeline, including one leaked email that circulated last June and said, “It’s time to bring Tesla Semi to volume production.” The email went on to mention that production of the powertrain and battery were likely to take place at the Gigafactory in Nevada, with production of other parts occurring in several states. At the time, Tesla had secured a lease of a facility near the Nevada Gigafactory that might have been meant to assist with Semi production.
Since then, Tesla’s regulatory filings have indicated that Tesla plans to build at least one new factory somewhere in the United States to ramp up production capacity. It’s possible that the factory will manufacture parts for the Semi. It is also rumored to have secured land near Gigafactory Shanghai for a possible expansion despite recent tensions partly caused by China’s reluctance to allow government employees to park their Tesla vehicles near government facilities.
So far, it has not been officially confirmed that the Tesla Semi will be delayed yet again. Elon Musk has merely hinted that there may be issues with manufacturing the battery. Some people say that delays are likely despite Musk’s eternally optimistic deadlines. A commenter going by the alias of Mitt Zombie on Electrek had this to say:
“Elon straight up says that there’s not enough cell, but it will “probably be OK next year”. … Elon’s “definitely” is most people’s “maybe”.”
Some “Tesla spotters” have even seen Semi prototypes on the road as a possible part of a “stealth test” of the Semi’s ability to function in real-world conditions. The latest version of the truck appears to have gone through a bit of a redesign in relation to previous versions. They say that the Semi seems to be a lot quieter than “traditional” gas-guzzling semi trucks, which may help Tesla make its case that its Semi should be allowed on Australia’s local roads.
Tesla may yet surprise us by keeping its schedule for a change. It might even manufacture enough Semis to fill Walmart Canada’s order this year, even if it has slipped from its originally planned release date in 2019. For now, though, there is a distinct possibility that it will be delayed due to issues with battery production.