Walmart joins retailers planning to try out Tesla truck

Walmart joins retailers planning to try out Tesla truck
Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the electric vehicle company's new Semi aimed at the commercial trucking market. (Tesla)

Customers are starting to place orders for Tesla Inc.’s new all-electric Semi truck, with retail giant Walmart Stores Inc. preordering for its U.S. and Canadian units.

“We have a long history of testing new technology – including alternative-fuel trucks – and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said. “We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions.”

Bloomberg: Tesla Semi unveiling from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

While electric passenger cars get all the buzz, the move to electrify big rigs has been moving swiftly under the radar, given their high-emissions profiles and hefty fuel costs. Adding autonomous features on top of electrification can help operators save on labor costs, a major upheaval for a commercial trucking industry that’s gone virtually unchanged for decades.

Lundberg said Walmart has preordered five of the electric trucks for the U.S. and 10 for Canada.

Meijer Inc. has reserved four Semi trucks for $5,000 deposits apiece, Dan Scherer, a fleet manager for the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retailer, said after the product’s unveiling Thursday at Tesla’s design studio near Los Angeles. He said Meijer operates 220 trucks in six states in the Midwest.

“Electric drivetrains are a proven technology,” Scherer said. “Electricity is cheaper fuel than diesel, and you are less dependent on the spot-pricing of fossil fuel.”

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. placed a reservation to buy multiple Tesla Semi tractors, the company said Friday. The Lowell, Arkansas-based logistics company said it will deploy the trucks on the West Coast.

“Reserving Tesla trucks marks an important step in our efforts to implement industry-changing technology,” said Chief Executive Officer John Roberts. “We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new, sustainable technology.”

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