Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, gives the go-ahead for the delivery of the first semi-trucks

Tesla CEO Elon Musk begins deliveries of the company’s heavy truck, the Semi, at the Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.

Tesla Inc.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk began delivery of the company’s first few semi trucks on Thursday, speaking on stage at the company’s Sparks, Nevada, plant with Dan Priestly, the company’s senior manager of semi truck engineering.

As CNBC previously reported, Tesla set up lines and began production of the Semi outside of Reno this year at the location where it primarily makes the battery cells, drive units and battery packs that power its cars. Musk and Tesla did not say on Thursday how many Semis it will deliver.

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Tesla originally showed off the Semi design in December 2017. Production was delayed due to factors including the Covid pandemic and battery cell supply issues.

At the deliveries kickoff event, Musk briefly alluded to the tumult of the past five years, joking, “Sorry for the delay.”

He later thanked and handed the microphone to representatives of PepsiCo Fried Laythe first Tesla customer to receive and operate semi-production trucks.

A major difference between Tesla’s Class 8 offerings and other heavy-duty trucks is the location of the steering wheel and driver’s seat. Instead of using the left side (or right side in Europe), Tesla designed the Semi with the steering wheel in the center of the cabin with touchscreens on either side of the driver.

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While the Tesla Semi was in development, other all-electric heavy-duty trucks came onto the market.

Volvo-The Renault trucks and Daimler have produced and delivered electric heavy duty trucks to customers before Tesla even besieged Nicholas — whose founder was impeached and convicted of fraud in recent months — began production of a battery-electric truck in March.

But Tesla boasts some high-tech features not available anywhere else, including a new fast charging system and a battery with longer range than the competition. The DC fast-charging system delivers up to 1MW and uses a water-based coolant to ensure it’s safe to deliver that power. Tesla says the Semi can travel 500 miles on a single charge when fully charged.

The new fast-charging technology will eventually be installed at Tesla SuperCharging stations and used to charge Cybertrucks, the consumer pickup truck Tesla is planning, Musk revealed. The company plans to mass-produce the sharp-edged heavy-duty pickup at its new facility in Austin, Texas.

A return to form

The Tesla Semi event may provide relief to fans concerned about its commitment to and focus on the electric vehicles.

Musk recently took on new responsibilities as the owner and CEO of Twitter, the social media giant, which he acquired for $44 billion in a leveraged buyout in October. He sold some of his significant Tesla stock to fund that deal. Since taking over Twitter, he has been embroiled in multiple conflicts and controversies surrounding that platform.

Musk returned to form on Thursday, speaking to Tesla’s environmental mission and the company’s vehicle technology.

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In the US, he said, there are about 15 million passenger cars and about 200,000 heavy trucks. “It seems like a small percentage,” he said, but the semi trucks account for a large portion of harmful vehicle emissions due to their size, weight and the fact that they run around the clock.

Those emissions can have cowardly health effects on people who live near warehouses, ports and other roads with a lot of trucking activity.

As of 2020, according to transportation and air quality research by the American Lung Association, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (such as vans, short- and long-haul trucks) accounted for approximately 6% of the US road fleet. These vehicles cause an inordinate amount of pollution, including 59% of ozone and particulate nitrogen oxide emissions, and 26% of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

Musk said the Semi would not only help combat climate change, but “it’s also quiet, will improve air quality and improve the health of people who live near freeways.”

The same can be said of other electric heavy trucks that move diesel cars.

Musk and other executives did not discuss Tesla’s driver assistance systems, marketed as Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability, at the Semi Delivery event. In 2017, when Musk debuted the semi, he touted a driverless trucking future.

Nor have they discussed how many trucks they want to produce in the coming year, nor how they will get the extra battery cells and raw materials to produce them.

Shares in Elon Musk’s auto company closed just before the event, at $194.70, and did not trade significantly after hours.

View the full delivery event here.

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