Freightliner Cascadia Trucks Versus Tesla Semi

Tesla revealed the Tesla Semi. There has been a lot of debate about how much the Tesla Semi Tractor (the part that pulls the trailer and cargo) weighs. I calculate that the Tesla Semi tractor 500 mile range weighs about 26,000 lbs versus a typical diesel big rig at 18,000 lbs. A commenter claims they…
Freightliner Cascadia Trucks Versus Tesla Semi

Tesla revealed the Tesla Semi. There has been a lot of debate about how much the Tesla Semi Tractor (the part that pulls the trailer and cargo) weighs. I calculate that the Tesla Semi tractor 500 mile range weighs about 26,000 lbs versus a typical diesel big rig at 18,000 lbs. A commenter claims they have a Peterbilt Semi tractor that weighs 20,000 lbs. The Tesla 300 mile range Semi weighs 20,500 lbs.

The Tesla Semi may be able to reach the normal business maximum of 46,000 pound cargo load for a 48-foot flatbed trailer. My calculations could be slightly off. The Tesla Semi might be limited to about 44,500-45,000 lbs. This cargo capacity is plenty for most of the trucking markets, so long as the other factors like range are acceptable for the use case.

The Tesla Semi cargo capacity is definitely not the 12000 lbs cargo or 18,000 lbs cargo accusations of some Elon-hating YouTubers.

The cost of one year driving 100,000 miles is $17000 for a Tesla Semi versus $80,000 for any diesel Semi driving 100000 miles.

The most popular diesel Semi truck in the US with 40% market share is Freightliner. The Freightliner are reported to have more fuel efficiency than their diesel competitors.

BigRigPros reports a Freightliner Cascadia truck reports GVW Gross Vehicle Weight of 52,000 pounds.

The GVW weight of a vehicle means the licensed maximum weight of the vehicle as per the vehicle’s certificate of registration.

The TARE weight of a vehicle means the weight of the vehicle when it is empty or not carrying cargo.

Gross Weight Limit – Tare Weight = Payload


(80,000 lbs Federal Limit) – (35,650 lbs truck weight) = (44,350 lbs load allowed)

The 500 mile range Tesla Semi was shown moving eleven ten-foot concrete barriers that online sites selling the barriers indicate as each weighing 4000 lbs. NOTE- I counted pixels of the screen capture to determine the flatbed trailer was 48 feet long and the barriers were each ten feet long.

Tesla Semi Tare Weight [500 mile range] = (82,000 lbs Federal eSemi Limit) – (44,000 lbs load calculated)

Tesla Semi Tare Weight Estimate is 38,000 lbs.

If Tesla’s tractor and trailer Tare weight is 38,000 lbs and the steel 48-foot flatbed in 12,000 lbs then the Tesla Semi Tractor 500 mile range weight without sleeper is 26,000 lbs.

Tesla 500 mile range Semi should have batteries that weigh about 6 tons or 12000 pounds. The Tesla 300 mile range Semi should have batteries that weigh about 6500 lbs. The Tesla Semi Tractor 300 mile range weight without sleeper is 20,500 lbs. The Tesla Semi Tractor 300 mile range should have the same cargo load capacity mainly limited by federal weight limits. This means the 300 mile range would have 46,000 to 48000 pounds of cargo capacity. The 300 mile range Tesla Semi uses less batteries than a Freightliner eCascadia (electric Freightliner). The eCascadia uses 540 kWh of batteries to go 230 miles. The Tesla 300 mile range Semi is over 30% more efficient than the electric Freightliner.

Flatbed trailers, more specifically (which are most commonly a five-axle combination), can legally haul a maximum load weight of 46,000-48,000 pounds. Once your load’s weight exceeds 46,000 pounds, the number of drivers willing to haul it dwindles. Heavier loads are hard on the equipment transporting them and with so many other loads to choose from, many drivers prefer to steer clear of these shipments.

The Tesla Semi seems to be near the cargo limit for Flatbed trailers.

A steel 48-foot flatbed semi-trailer usually weighs around 12,000 pounds. An aluminum 48-foot flatbed trailer typically weighs around 9,200 pounds. A 48-foot van trailer usually weighs around 14,000 pounds.

Big Truck Guide says that the Tare Weight for a typical 5 axle semi truck is approximately:

Tandem Drive Truck Tractor with Sleeper: 18,000 lbs


Van (Box) Trailer 53’ long with 2 axles: 17,650 lbs


Total: 35,650 lbs

Here is a 12 page brochure on the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.

Tesla and other electric Semi maker get an extra 2000 pounds of maximum total weight. 900 kWh of batteries will weigh a less than 6 tons. A 200 gallon gas tank will weigh about 1 ton. If everything else were equal the electric Semi would be at a 4 ton disadvantage on max cargo.

The 8,000 lb tractor weight difference would be consistent with a 4-ton battery vs fuel tank disadvantage.

Tesla Semi gets within 2000 lbs of the typical flatbed hauling maximum. The Tesla Semi was also moving chains and a log, so the difference may only be 1,000 lbs.

Tesla will be making the batteries about 10% more efficient than the current level. the current level is already 25-40% more efficient than competing electic Semi. Tesla are at 1.7 kWh per mile driven under load versus other electric trucks like the Freightliner eCascadia at 2.1 kWh per mile. Tesla will get to 1.6 kWh per mile and possibly 1.5 kWh per mile. If they choose to get more weight efficient with the same range then they would reduce the batteries by 10-15%. They could remove 2000 lbs of batteries and still have the same range.

Tesla has constantly found ways to reduce the weight of their existing electric cars. They are using structural battery could reduce the overall weight of the vehicle by turning the battery into a structural component.

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