The electric vehicle I have been most eager to see hit the market for several years has been the Tesla Semi. It would be a massive lie if I didn’t say that I’m disappointed the Semi is delayed until 2023 (at least). I’m also not surprised, given that former President of Automotive Jerome Guillen left Tesla earlier this year and that was 100% his baby. (See articles on our 2019 interview with Jerome here and here.)
What was good to hear from Elon Musk at the 2021 Tesla Shareholder Meeting was an explanation for the delay. Though, again, the explanation didn’t come with many (or any) surprises. Basically, Tesla has been quite supply limited this year and will be next year as well. That concerns batteries, automotive chips, and more. As Elon put it at one point, no matter how many more vehicle models the company was selling, it wouldn’t be able to deliver more units this year — the constraint is supplies, not demand. With that in mind, and due to how many batteries and chips the Semi needs, it is being delayed until these supply chains ramp up, which is expected to be in 2023 at the moment.
Before I move on, I would just emphasize that this is a huge letdown. We need to decarbonize heavy-duty and medium-duty rucking through electrification, and the longer it takes to do that, the worse off we all are. There was so much enthusiasm for the Tesla Semi when it was unveiled because of the tremendous potential in this sector. Alas, another two years of the semi truck industry being dominated by fossil fuel vehicles.
Similarly, the Tesla Cybertruck is delayed until the end of 2022 for all the same reasons. The Cybertruck also needs batteries and chips, but the Model Y and Model 3 are using up all the batteries and chips Tesla can get at the moment. (Well, of course, the Model S and Model X are using a few too, but those are practically a rounding error at this point.)
When answering a question about when the Cybertruck would come to market, Elon Musk said at the meeting today (yesterday in the continental US now, if you want to be technical):
“Well, so, this year has been just a constant struggle with parts supply. So, just to be clear, if we had like five extra products, we would not change our vehicle output at all, because we were just basically limited by multiple supply chain shortages — like, of so many types, not just chips. There were lots of supply chain shortages. So, it really wouldn’t matter if we had the Semi or Cybertruck or anything, we just wouldn’t be able to make it. […]
“I think most likely what we’ll see is Cybertruck start production in the next year, and then reach volume production in 2023. And, hopefully, we can also be producing the Semi and the new Roadster in ‘23 as well. So, we should be through our severe supply chain shortages in ‘23. I’m optimistic that that will be the case.”
So, that’s the word on the Cybertruck.
It’s unclear how much this might open people up to the Rivian RT1 or Ford F-150 Lightning. Clearly, they’re all electric trucks, but they’re also very different vehicles. It’s completely unclear how many potential buyers are actually cross-shopping these trucks. Considering the ones who are cross-shopping, though, let’s look at where these other electric trucks stand.
The F-150 Lightning just went into pre-production, and the truck will go on sale in the spring of 2022, beating the Cybertruck to market. Production capacity is targeted at 80,000 vehicles a year, though, and the company already has reservations for more than 150,000 trucks. So, it will take quite a while to work through the existing — and surely growing — reservation list.
Rivian RT1 production, meanwhile, just got started (a bit late, but clearly well before the others), and I presume production will be in full flow within a year.
A special night with some of Rivian’s earliest employees and now earliest deliveries! Some of these families have been helping build our company for over 11 years. Thanks for all the hard work and dedication. pic.twitter.com/QWEBwoxzD2
— RJ Scaringe (@RJScaringe) September 25, 2021
That said, the RT1 has a much higher starting price than the Cybertruck or F-150 Lighting — $67,500. That’s always been a part of the story that makes it hard for me to get excited about the RT1. I’m eager for mass-market, high-volume electric vehicles. Though, the RT1 is clearly a compelling vehicle that will bring more families into the electric future. And it’s arriving!
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