Elon Musk is delivering Tesla’s electric semi trucks to PepsiCo

Tesla Inc. delivered the first of its electric semi-trailer trucks, a milestone for the automaker more than five years after the vehicle’s debut.

“If you want the toughest device on the road, this is it,” Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said Thursday at Tesla’s battery factory near Reno, Nevada. He capped the delivery by handing key cards to two PepsiCo Inc. executives.

While passenger cars are attracting the most attention, the electrification of large commercial vehicles is crucial for the transition to more sustainable modes of transport. Tesla estimates that while station wagon trucks make up just 1% of the U.S. vehicle fleet, they account for 20% of vehicle emissions.

Tesla designed the Semi around the driver, with a central seating position, standing position and plenty of storage space. The company released footage of a 500-mile (805-kilometer) demonstration run, transporting a full load with a load from its Fremont facility to San Diego.

To quickly refill the Semi’s battery, Tesla developed a liquid-cooled cable that can be charged at one megawatt. Musk said the technology, which is coming to the company’s Superchargers next year, will also be used in the upcoming Cybertruck.

Tesla shares were little changed as of 5 a.m. Friday in New York before the start of regular trading.

During Tesla’s recent conference call, Musk said the company aims to produce 50,000 Semis for North America in 2024. He appears to have phased out the product following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which brings in tax credits of up to $100,000, while the $40,000 available for commercial vehicles. Musk didn’t discuss production volume or pricing Thursday night.

Major fleet operators such as PepsiCo, Walmart Inc., Meijer Inc., and JB Hunt Transport Services Inc. were among the companies making non-binding reservations for the Semi as of 2017. Initial shipments will be to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay facility in Modesto, California.

Tesla will use the semi to haul cargo between the company’s Nevada and California factories so engineers can continually refine the product, Dan Priestley, the truck’s program manager, said onstage. He thanked customers for sticking with the company despite setbacks on the model originally slated to go into production for 2019.

“Sorry for the delay,” Musk said. “The sheer amount of drama between five years ago and now is insane. A lot has happened in the world, but here we are and it’s real.”

– With support from Ed Ludlow.

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