Real-World Tesla Semi Range Data is In, And It’s Not Bad

Where we once only had bluster and speculation, now we have real-world data won in the heat of transport.

byLewin Day|
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PepsiCo/NACFE
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The Tesla Semi has been a long-running project for the electric automaker. As is the Tesla way, the company has promised big things long ahead of the product actually reaching the market. Now, we're finally getting some hints as to the Semi's capabilities, thanks to real-world industry testing.

It's all thanks to Run On Less, an event run by telematics company GEOTAB and the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). During the event, charging and driving data is recorded by members of the transport industry to determine the real-world performance of their vehicles. Dave Mullaney, an electric trucking researcher with the Rocky Mountain Institute, has been following the results closely. In a LinkedIn post, he pointed out that it's the public's first real look at how much range the Tesla Semi can really offer out on the road.

Testing has only been underway for a couple of days, but it's already enlightened us as to what the Semi can do. The first day saw three Tesla trucks out on the road, running deliveries for PepsiCo out of Sacramento. Truck 1 achieved 335 miles of running on a single charge, wrapping up its day with 17.5% state-of-charge (SOC) left in the battery. Truck 2 achieved just 227 miles on a single charge with 27% left, suggesting it may have been hauling a heavier payload or climbing more hills.

The third truck achieved an impressive 377 miles on a single charge in seven hours of driving. At the end, the battery meter read just 1.6%, indicating it was run right to the limit of its capability. Indeed, Truck 3 was the star of the show. After a few hours of charging, it headed back out on the road, clocking a total of 545 miles for the day. Trucks 1 and 2 clocked a total of 416 miles and 376 miles respectively, each taking a short charging period after their initial run.

The second day saw Truck 1 achieve 334 miles with 20% battery remaining. Truck 2 did even better, racking up 359 miles on one charge, with 19% capacity in reserve. Truck 3 ran 411 miles in total across the day, with a top-up charge in the middle to boost its range.

The data provided on the Run on Less site gives us a good insight into how the trucks are being used. We get traces of speed, battery state of charge, and distance covered. There is also information provided about the truck's activity throughout the day and energy capture via regenerative braking.

What is missing, though, are details on payload. While we're told how many deliveries the vehicles are achieving, it's unclear how much they're actually carrying at any time. Payload can seriously impact range, so it would be good to get a better picture on how much the trucks are hauling during these tests.

What we do know is that PepsiCo had promised to "run 'em hard" when it announced its participation in Run on Less earlier this year. Amanda DeVoe, PepsiCo's sustainability and technology director for fleet operations, had promised the trucks would operate with maximum payload and run up to 500-mile round trips during the event. However, it's unclear whether that has actually happened in any individual run recorded thus far.

Before this, the only information as to the Tesla Semi's range came from Tesla itself. Previously, the company claimed the Semi could achieve 500 miles of range, hauling a maxed-out load just under 82,000 pounds. The numbers from PepsiCo obviously don't hit that same mark, but it's not clear if we're comparing apples with apples at this stage. The trucks running the current challenge may be on less efficient routes with more hills, headwinds, or other factors that negatively affect range.

Regardless, it's a great look at the performance of the Tesla Semi, on which we've had precious little data so far. Here's hoping we get even more granular data from the competition going forward so we can really see how these electric haulers perform.

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com

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