Skip to Content
Silicon Valley

Tesla’s New Semi May Pack Radical Battery Tech

November 21, 2017

Could some of our misgivings about Elon Musk’s new electric truck be alleviated by secret advances in energy storage? Perhaps, if a new report is to be believed.

One of the chief concerns with the Tesla Semi has to do with the resilience of its batteries: most lithium-ion cells for vehicles begin to degrade after around 1,000 charges, which would allow the truck to cover only 500,000 miles before needing replacements. Problem is, as we’ve explained, the truck’s batteries may be so expensive—as much as $400,000—that its fuel savings would allow it to break even against a diesel only if it could cover one million miles in a lifetime. Without some kind of advance, then, it’s going to be a very hard sell.

When Musk unveiled the truck, he said that it would be good for a million miles, but nobody thought that applied to its batteries. Now, media company Axios cites sources who claim the cells will last through 2,000 charges, which would indeed get the truck into cost-effective territory.

How it will do that, exactly, is another question—to which the Axios report doesn’t have many firm answers. Electric-truck rival Nikola Motor Company has suggested on Twitter that Tesla’s truck may use batteries like those in its grid storage batteries rather than those found in its cars, as they’re more robust. Or there may be some more fundamental battery tweak that allows them to last longer. Hard to tell.

But given how hard battery science is (see “Why We Still Don’t Have Better Batteries”), color us skeptical until we get some hard numbers from Musk.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

DeepMind’s cofounder: Generative AI is just a phase. What’s next is interactive AI.

“This is a profound moment in the history of technology,” says Mustafa Suleyman.

What to know about this autumn’s covid vaccines

New variants will pose a challenge, but early signs suggest the shots will still boost antibody responses.

Human-plus-AI solutions mitigate security threats

With the right human oversight, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence can help keep business and customer data secure

Next slide, please: A brief history of the corporate presentation

From million-dollar slide shows to Steve Jobs’s introduction of the iPhone, a bit of show business never hurt plain old business.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.