Tesla Semi customer UPS undeterred following Supercharger team firings

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A Tesla Semi truck parked for charging.
UPS remains committed to its Class 8, all-electric Tesla Semi truck fleet purchase despite Tesla's decision to fire its Supercharger team.

In the wake of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s announcement on Monday that the company has disbanded its Supercharger development team, Clean Trucking has confirmed with UPS that it remains committed to purchasing the Class 8 fully battery-electric Tesla Semi. The order, however, has yet to be fulfilled.

"Our priority is reimagining our network with innovation driven investments that include electric ground vehicles and cleaner-burning fuel that help us reach carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Karen A. Tomaszewski Hill, UPS media relations. “We continue to count Tesla among these collaborators."

Like Tesla's passenger vehicles, the Semi utilizes the nationwide Supercharger network, which also includes Megachargers. These provide Semis with 400 miles of range in only 30 minutes. It is still too early to determine whether the elimination of the Supercharger team will affect Semi usage and potential future customers.

In late 2017, UPS reserved a 125-unit Semi order. It has not received a single vehicle. PepsiCo, meanwhile, has taken partial delivery of its 100-unit order. These trucks are currently active in Modesto and Sacramento, California. 

In 2020, Walmart Canada increased its initial order of 15 to 130 units, making it Tesla’s biggest Semi customer globally. UPS rival FedEx placed a 20-unit order in 2018. Neither company has received their orders. Clean Trucking  reached out to both seeking comment but did not receive responses by deadline. 

UPS, the world’s largest delivery carrier, announced last December its 2050 goal of carbon neutrality. Renewable natural gas (RNG) and electrification will be integrated into the shipping carrier’s fleet, with 40% of ground operations intending to use alternative fuels by next year. 

“We continue to work alongside manufacturers, cities, state and federal government partners to explore various innovative solutions to best serve our customers and reduce our overall carbon footprint,” Tomaszewski Hill added. 

Last month, Tesla announced plans to increase Semi production next year. Whether this will happen remains a big question. The vehicle has been delayed four times since it was unveiled in 2017. Tesla initially aimed for a 2019 production start date. The company's decision to lay off 10% of its global workforce, including the Supercharging team, comes in the aftermath of decreased profits due to less demand for its passenger EVs.

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With a range of up to 500 miles at maximum weight and highway speed, the Tesla Semi consumes less than two kilowatt-hours of energy per mile when fully loaded with cargo. It has a battery capacity of around 900 kilowatt-hours (kWh). Interested buyers are required to pay a $5,000 deposit per truck. 

Class 8 trucks consist of just 1% of vehicles in the United States. However, they contribute 20% of US vehicle emissions and 36% of US vehicle particulate emissions. 

Jay Traugott has covered the automotive and transportation sector for over a decade and now serves as Senior Editor for Clean Trucking. He holds a drifting license and has driven on some of the world's best race tracks, including the Nurburgring and Spa. He lives near Boulder, Colorado, and spends his free time snowboarding, climbing, and hiking. He can be reached at [email protected].

Hydrogen Fuel Cell & BEV Survey
The following survey was sent as a link in an email cover message in February 2023 to the newsletter lists for Overdrive and CCJ. After approximately two weeks, a total of 176 owner-operators under their own authority, 113 owner-operators leased or assigned to a carrier and 82 fleet executives and 36 fleet employees from fleets with 10 or more power units had completed and submitted the questionnaire for a total of 407 qualified responses. Cross-tabulations based on respondent type are provided for each question when applicable.
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