Yesterday, Tesla (TSLA) unveiled its new truck, and the event was vintage Musk. As if the world’s first fully electric semi wasn’t enough, he used the occasion to unveil a new roadster that was driven from the trailer of the demo. That kind of showmanship and marketing has been his genius in the past. It has helped to cement his reputation as an innovative, disruptive thinker and it keeps the Tesla fans in awe. The haters, of course, see it all as a distraction from the production issues and increasing losses at the company, but you either buy into the visionary thing or you don’t. Even for the doubters, though, the numbers make it hard to be anything but impressed with the truck itself.
Tesla claims it will make truck operation cheaper and safer, and given the relative cost of electricity and the inclusion of autopilot features such as automatic braking and lane departure correction both of those claims look justified. Probably the most impressive numbers, though, are the single charge range of 500 miles, and the 400 miles achievable after thirty minutes on a Tesla Supercharger. It will also lumber less from a stop than diesel vehicles, reaching 60 MPH in 20 seconds fully laden and in an incredible 5 seconds without a trailer.
What we don’t know at this point is how much it will cost. The lack of that information is understandable, as predicting cost for a vehicle scheduled for production in two years would be tough in any case, and is even more so when that vehicle is battery powered. The cost of batteries is falling rapidly as production levels increase, and it is impossible to predict where we will be in two years. It is, however, reasonable to assume that prices will be significantly lower, enabling the Tesla truck to be competitively priced.
There are, however, questions that remain for investors, even those that are not about to buy TSLA regardless of the truck and roadster. An affordable, practical electric semi has obvious implications for the oil business and prices of the commodity, as well as for things like natural gas and solar power that are increasingly used to generate electricity. But, there is also a bigger issue…jobs. According to the American Trucking Association there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the U.S., and Goldman Sachs economists have estimated that 300,000 of those jobs will be eliminated annually as automation takes hold.
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As for Tesla stock, this can only be seen as a positive. There are, of course, other companies involved in research into electric trucks, but none have either the experience or the caché of Tesla in the field. Add in the prospect of a return to Tesla’s roots in performance electric vehicles with the roadster and it is no wonder that the stock is up around four percent in this morning’s pre-market. Even if you see yesterday’s revelations as a distraction, the fact remains that the losses now look more like massive investment in the future. That will renew the excitement of the Tesla faithful and ensure that this morning’s jump is just the beginning.