The launch of Tesla Semi, the fully electric semi-trailer, is being delayed again due to battery cell constraints but may go ahead in 2022, Elon Musk said on Saturday (US time).
Tesla’s electric semi-trailer is subject to delays due to its high energy requirements which demands five times the number of calls of its electric cars, which the EV maker has prioritised to get production and revenue levels up.
At Tesla’s Battery Day last September, Musk outlined the EV maker’s plan to use lower energy density cells that do not use rare earths such as cobalt and nickel in its lower range, lower energy demand vehicles, so that it could free up high energy density cells (that typically use more nickel) for its higher energy products such as the Semi and Cybertruck.
But until that plan (that also includes manufacturing the 4680 format cell) can be put fully into place, he said that those high demand vehicles would play second fiddle in the cell priority line-up and face delays.
At Tesla’s fourth-quarter earnings call in January, Musk said, “it would not make sense for us to do the Semi right now, but it will absolutely make sense for us to do it as soon as we can address the cell production constraint.”
On Saturday, Musk updated this saying, “We are too cell-constrained right now, but probably ok next year.”
We are too cell-constrained right now, but probably ok next year
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 27, 2021
The new comment re-confirms the main issue that clean battery-powered transport may face before it can truly become mainstream: getting enough EV batteries.
Other carmakers reported in 2020 that battery cell supply issues had affected vehicle production. Audi halted production of its e-tron, as did Jaguar with its I-Pace.
Recently, Tesla forged a new technical partnership with New Caledonia’s Goro mine (which is owned by the French island nation and Brazilian mining giant Vale) in order to help guarantee a supply of nickel for its battery makers.
The EV maker recently shared a video of the Semi testing at its track in Fremont.
Once it does go into production, it may not come to Australia however. A submission by Tesla to the recent National Transport Commission’s Heavy Vehicle National Law Review noted that unless Australian Design Rules are changed, the Semi may be deigned too wide for Australian roads by a matter of millimetres.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.