by Matthew DeBord
Tesla is expected to reveal a design for a semitrailer this month. CEO Elon Musk has been heralding this move into the freight business since last year, when he rolled out his "Master Plan, Part Deux."
According to Morgan Stanley analyst Ravi Shanker, the vehicle will be what's known as a Class 8 truck - a great big old over-the-road semi designed to haul large amounts of stuff. Despite that, Shanker doesn't think the Tesla semi will have a long-range battery delivering 600 or more miles of range; something like 300 miles is more realistic, because of battery costs, and Tesla will deal with the range issue by swapping batteries or enhancing its charging capabilities.
In a note published Wednesday, Shanker suggested that Tesla wouldn't start selling the semi until 2020, but that won't prevent the company from lining up customers.
"We expect Tesla to start taking orders for the truck from the day of the event (we estimate a refundable $5,000 deposit)," he wrote. "We believe this could set off competition for intelligent trucks in the industry."
Shanker calculates that the truck business could add up to almost $12 billion in business by 2028.
This all sounds pretty good, but remember that Tesla has taken something on the order of 500,000 deposits for its Model 3 sedan, at $1,000 a pop. As of August, just more than 100 vehicles had been delivered as Tesla ramped up production. But even with an aggressive ramp, it will take Tesla years to fulfill those preorders.