What to expect from Tesla's big electric truck reveal

Darrell Etherington
What to expect from Tesla's big electric truck reveal

Tesla is set to take the lid off its electric truck tomorrow for the first time, after months of teasing the big rig. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is still doing some teasing of his own, posting to his Instagram account a short video clip of the truck all draped in shadow -- but we're still going to learn a lot tomorrow. Here's a quick breakdown of what we know, what we think we know and what gaps we hope Tesla will fill at its big unveiling.

A truck

Easy ones first -- we're going to see a huge truck at 8 PM PT tomorrow, and it'll look recognizably truck-like. We know this much because Tesla has told us so directly, and we've seen the teaser images that are going around, which include a barely concealed silhouette that's definitely a truck with a trailer.

We've also potentially seen the full thing unobscured, too. A Reddit post revealed a spy shot taken by a passerby that shows what looks like it could very well be the Tesla semi truck. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the truck cloaked in shadow from the official Tesla images, and it was taken at a spot that's supposedly been used for Tesla vehicle testing in the past.

But what kind of truck?

So we know we'll see a truck, and we know it'll be a big one. Musk has previously said that the truck would be able to suit the needs of large-freight shippers, and that they'll be unveiling a "working prototype" of a vehicle intended to be produced at scale potentially within around two years.

Musk talked earlier about how Tesla has worked directly with potential customers for the truck, talking to freight-shipping companies throughout the vehicle-design process to ensure that it meets their needs and is an attractive option to them in all regards once it becomes available to purchase.

Range and capacity

The key ingredients for the truck from a commercial viability perspective will be how much it can tow, and how far. As a Class 8 truck, it'll have a total max weight load of around 80,000 lbs., and to get a decent range out of something that heavy you'll need a lot of battery capacity.

An earlier report claimed that the Tesla truck would have between 200 and 300 miles of all-electric range, which would require a huge battery pack -- which will likely mean at least a 500 or 600 kW capacity for onboard storage, and likely more.

If Tesla can hit that range, with that load capacity, they can offer a product that's good for short and shorter medium-haul routes, which are key for frequent trips for logistics companies between major hubs and large retail stores, for instance. Even with a higher upfront cost for the truck, they can offer better lifetime value in terms of mechanical systems maintenance and cost of powering the vehicle, which should help with the overall value proposition.

Autonomy

The Tesla semi truck sounds like it could pack some pretty significant surprises, if Musk isn't just hyping for hype's sake with his comments around the launch event. One thing that has previously been rumored, and that there exists a bit of a bread crumb trail for, is the inclusion of autonomous driving features in the truck.

A report from August revealed that Tesla has had discussions with the Nevada and the California DMVs around potential autonomous testing of a truck. Even the inclusion of Tesla's Autopilot system might be a selling point, depending on how it's presented, but others are also chasing trucking as a relatively low-hanging fruit in terms of implementing autonomous driving technology in the relative short term.

This would be a definite whiz-bang feature reveal for Tesla to trot out at the reveal, even if it's already been rumored, and a future-focused component.

Extras

There could be plenty more revealed tomorrow, and in fact Musk has made some interesting remarks to that effect, too. He said at the Tesla annual shareholder meeting earlier this year (when the event was still planned for September) that he "really recommend[ed] showing up," since "maybe there's a little more than we're saying here." Could that be a rumored Tesla streaming music service? Or maybe the truck really is an all-electric Optimus Prime. Either way, tune in right here on TC to find out tomorrow starting at 8 PM PT.

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