Electric Semi-Trailer

Tesla's robot truck to battle Mercedes and VW

Tesla Motors Semi Truck Unveiled
Move over Daimler, the Semi is coming. Source: picture alliance/ZUMA Press

Electric-car maker Tesla first broke into Mercedes-parent Daimler’s territory with a luxury car, the Model S, in 2012. This week the auto pioneer was at it again, with the launch of an electric truck that looks ready to roll right over the German car maker’s other revenue pillar: trucks.

Tesla’s ambitious boss, Elon Musk, presented the Semi on Thursday in Los Angeles, unveiling an electrically powered rig that can haul a gross weight of up to 80,000 pounds (36 metric tons) and drive up to 500 miles (805 kilometers) with a maximum load. The truck, which will go on sale in 2019, will be 20 percent cheaper to operate thanks to the lower costs involved in recharging batteries rather than fueling up with diesel, Mr. Musk said.

Although the Semi’s price is expected to be higher than a conventional truck, Tesla’s competitors are still anxious. The successes of the firm’s Model S and Model X, an SUV, served as wake-ups calls for VW, BMW and Daimler. It has also launched a mass-market car, the Model 3.

Tesla’s new truck could have the biggest impact on VW, which owns the MAN and Scania brands, and Daimler, by far the world’s largest maker of semi-trailers. In addition to the Mercedes Benz name, Daimler sells trucks and buses under various US brands such as Freightliner, Western Star, Detroit Diesel and Thomas Built Buses, as well as Bharat Benz and Fuso in Asia. Daimler’s total truck sales came to around €33 billion ($39 billion) in 2016.

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