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Tesla's Semi Will Cost Twice as Much as Standard Trucks

by Justin Tejada
There are a select number of brands with such great cachet that they can pretty much slap whatever price tag they want, and consumers will buy it.

Think of Apple, which recently began selling the iPhone X at prices that started at $999 and had people lined up outside of its stores ready to fork over their money. Even though comparable smartphones sell for significantly less, Apple is able to convince customers that the design, functionality and quality of its products justifies the higher price point. Looking around at the number of people using Apple devices, it's hard to argue with that contention.

Tesla is another company that warrants inclusion on that list.

As an innovator in electric and autonomous vehicle systems, the company represents a new kind of automotive company and it charges a premium for its leading edge approach. Despite the high price tags, Tesla's cars are overwhelmingly popular -- perhaps even too popular for the company's own good.

Thus, there were two safe bets to be made when Tesla CEO Elon Musk first introduced the company's electric Semi truck in November: It would be popular, and it would be expensive. While the initial announcement of the Tesla Semi did not include a price, recent developments shed light on the cost of the big rig.

The Semi's product page was updated in late November to include the truck's "expected base price" as $150,000 for a model with a 300-mile battery range and $180,000 for a model with a 500-mile range. Those looking to reserve a Semi -- the release of which isn't expected until 2019 -- need to pay a $20,000 fee upfront.

By contrast, a standard diesel semi truck starts around $80,000, but can reach $150,000 or more depending on the number of options.

Tesla's prices are listed below a "fuel savings" figure of $200,000+, a not-so-subtle suggestion that the Semi will pay for itself thanks to the projected savings from switching from diesel to electric.

As Musk outlined in his introduction of the vehicle, cost savings are just one benefit.

The Semi is also expected to outperform current diesel truck models. Tesla claims the Semi can travel at 65 mph up a 5% grade, and will go from zero to 60 mph in 20 seconds while carrying an 80,000-pound load. There are also design upgrades. Most notably, the driver's seat will be positioned in the middle of the cockpit "like you're in a racecar," Musk said.

The truck appears to be delivering in the popularity category, as well. While the total number of orders Tesla has received is not available, Reuters reports that shipping companies like DHL, Wal-Mart and J.B. Hunt have already reserved Semis. Wal-Mart ordered 15 of the trucks, and DHL ordered 10.

Given the small order sizes from companies with enormous fleets, and given that the product won't be available until 2019 (or even later, given Tesla's penchant for pushing back deadlines), it's safe to infer that these orders weren't the result of black-and-white bottom-line calculations. Instead, companies want Teslas for the same reason the rest of us want Teslas: it's a shiny new thing.

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