Tesla Semi ready for production, but hamstrung by battery cell shortage

Tesla Semi from front

Tesla announced in the company’s Q4 2020 earnings statement yesterday the long-awaited Semi truck will begin production this year.

Originally unveiled in 2017, the electric Semi truck has seen several delays. During the earnings call yesterday, CEO Elon Musk said the company could easily begin production right now, if not for one small detail.

“The main reason we have not accelerated new products, for example Tesla Semi, is that we simply don’t have enough cells for it. If we were to make the Semi right now, and we could easily go into production with the Semi right now, but we would not have enough cells for it.”

Musk explained that the Semi uses five times as many cells as a typical Tesla. Due to the economics of that relationship, it wouldn’t make sense to begin production until the new 4680 battery cell, which is cheaper and more efficient, begins mass production. That is expected to happen later this year.

“A Semi would use typically 5x the number of cells that a car would use, but it would not sell for 5x what a car would sell for, so it kind of would not make sense for us to do the Semi right now. But it will absolutely make sense for us to do it as soon as we can address the cell production constraint.”

Musk also linked the cell supply constraint as the reason the company hasn’t built a Tesla van yet. The CEO said that once the cell production constraint is lifted, it would definitely make one.

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