Photo credit: Korbitr / Wikimedia Commons/ Eli Burton
Tesla Semi will be a game-changer in the hauling industry. It's been some time since we've heard major updates to its progress. Now we are learning that, reportedly, Tesla is building four new Semis at its Giga Nevada factory, which will use new cells with a higher energy density. All of them will later be used for various tests. What's more, Tesla hacker @greentheonly/Twitter recently discovered that current production Autopilot already includes some coding for Semi. As he explained on Twitter, Semi has 10 cameras, with an extra repeater on the right side (unclear if this is also true for the left). And, Semi will be operating on HW3.2.
@carsonight/Twitter reports that it received information from a source familiar with the case that Tesla is building four new Semis at a factory in Nevada. They will be manufactured using a new battery cell technology other than 2170 and 4680. It is reported that new cells with a higher density--called 2170L--will be used for the builds. The source says that the battery pack will consist of three blocks arranged in a row, each of which is half the size of the Model S.
In addition, the source gave some details about the tests of the new Semi. He says two of them will undergo road tests. Another will be tested in cold weather conditions in Alaska. The fourth will undergo durability tests.
...cold weather testing. The source does not know if Nevada or Texas will be the location of assembly line. My best guess is Texas.— Carsonight (@carsonight) December 27, 2020
It should be noted that the first full production line for 4680 battery cells will be built in Giga Berlin, which cannot happen as quickly as Tesla would like. The test-line, which is located in Fremont, will also not be able to produce such a large number of 4680 cells. That is why, in the immediate future, Tesla will not be able to have new battery cells on the scale in which it is necessary, but the start of production of the Semi is already approaching.
According to the information, although the size of the battery cell remains 2170, as before, the energy density in it will be higher than in the current ones. It is obvious that new chemistry will be used for their production.
In September, Carl Walton, vice president of production engineering and facilities for Panasonic Energy of North America, said the company had already begun using the new technology to manufacture batteries. He was talking about a 5% increase in the energy density of its cells for Tesla, and in the longer term, that figure should increase by 20%. Perhaps 2170L are the same cells that Walton talked about.
This would be an excellent compromise for use in Semi. Its production was originally planned using 2170 battery cells. The new 4680 battery cells were developed by Tesla relatively recently, so their use for the Semi is not possible just yet. Once Tesla is able to produce the 4680 at the required scale, the entire line of cars, including Semi, will be produced using them. At the moment, it is known that the first model in which the new 4680 cells will be used will be the Model Y made in Germany. The improved 2170L cells should be more than sufficient to meet all the stated characteristics of the Semi.
Given this report of a new battery, four Semis being built, and now also the findings of @greentheonly/Twitter, it seems that we will see Tesla Semi on the roads before we know it.
© 2020, Eva Fox. All rights reserved.
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About the Author
Eva Fox joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover breaking news as an automotive journalist. The main topics that she covers are clean energy and electric vehicles. As a journalist, Eva is specialized in Tesla and topics related to the work and development of the company.