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Tesla unveils electric semi

After more than a decade of making cars and SUVs — and, more recently, solar panels — Tesla Inc. wants to electrify a new type of vehicle: big trucks.

The company unveiled its new electric semitractor-trailer Thursday night near its design centre in Hawthorne, California.

CEO Elon Musk said the semi is capable of travelling 500 miles (804 kilometres) on an electric charge — even with a full 80,000-pound (36,287-kilogram) load — and will cost less than a diesel semi considering fuel savings, lower maintenance and other factors. Musk said customers can put down a $5,000 deposit for the semi now and production will begin in 2019.

"We're confident that this is a product that's better in every way from a feature standpoint," Musk told a crowd of Tesla fans gathered for the unveiling. Musk didn't reveal the semi's price.

Even so, the company already is starting to get orders. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said in a statement Friday that it has pre-ordered five Tesla units in its Walmart U.S. division and 10 units at Walmart Canada. Midwest retailer Meijer said it has reserved four trucks. And Arkansas trucking company J.B. Hunt said it has reserved "multiple" tractors that it will deploy on the West Coast but didn't specify how many.

The truck will have Tesla's Autopilot system, which can maintain a set speed and slow down automatically in traffic. It also has a system that automatically keeps the vehicle in its lane. Musk said several Tesla semis will be able to travel in a convoy, autonomously following each other.

Musk said Tesla plans a worldwide network of solar-powered "megachargers" that could get the trucks back up to 400 miles of range after charging for only 30 minutes.



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