Retail giant Walmart has made tentative steps towards electric trucking with a $5,000 per vehicle deposit for 15 of Tesla’s new Semi trucks.
Launched in California on Thursday, the Semi has yet to be priced – although one analyst told the BBC just the engine could cost $200,000, more than double the price of an entire diesel truck.
Walmart is not alone, or was the first to take a punt on the vehicle: Michigan-based grocery chain Meijer placed an order for four trucks almost immediately after the launch, Canadian grocery company Loblaw put down $75,000 for 25 and JB Hunt said it had made a reservation for “multiple” vehicles.
The US operator became the first haulier to publicly back the Semi, and CEO John Roberts said the vehicles would help its west coast intermodal and contract services divisions.
He added: “Reserving Tesla trucks marks an important step in our efforts to implement industry-changing technology. We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilising this new, sustainable technology.”
A Walmart spokesperson told the UK Financial Times that five of the 15 vehicles it ordered would be used in US operations, with the remaining 10 destined for its Canadian business.
“We have a long history of testing new technology – including alternative-fuel trucks – and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle,” said the spokesperson.
“We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions.”
Tesla may have drawn the crowds, but it wasn’t the only truck launch last week, with Volvo unveiling a self-driving prototype in Beijing.
Responding to both vehicle launches, the IRU said CO2 reductions through new innovations needed to respect “purpose-driven” logistics criteria.
“The latest advances in truck design are exciting – but electric vehicles are one of the solutions,” said an IRU spokesperson. “The complexities of long-distance commercial goods transport, where trucks are principally a production tool, require a prioritisation of factors such as range, cost and battery weight.”