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Tesla Semi Truck gets closer to becoming a production candidate with these major design changes

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Tesla Semi Truck prototypes have again started appearing in different US states, this time, the color is white on these ones. At the first look, both of the white Tesla Semis seen in different US states seem to be the same truck, but looking closely, we can see the differences.

Tesla has also made slight changes to the exterior of the class-8 electric hauler that suggests the automaker is performing further R&D. By testing these trucks on public roads, Tesla has been gathering real-world data for a few years now.

I have also compared two of the recently seen Tesla Semis from behind where both have different electrical boxes installed at the back which indicates that Tesla is also experimenting with variable electrical and battery management systems.

Let’s first look at the side profile of the new Tesla Semi Truck prototype seen in the video of the Trucker/YouTuber Cory Draper. Tesla has made several small and big changes to the side profile that I have tried to illustrate in the following single diagram (changes I have highlighted in this prototype can be compared to the official photo of the Tesla Semi added in the picture).

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Side Profile Modifications

Diagram: Latest changes that Tesla has made to the Tesla Semi Truck’s exterior. Illustrated by Iqtidar Ali / image by Cory Draper (full video below). Click/Tap to zoom-in.

Following is the list of modifications I have found in the exterior design update of the latest Tesla Semi prototypes:

  • Roof cab length is reduced by about 50% (visual estimate), this area previously expanded to the entire cabin’s length as seen in the official photo (above).
  • Roof cab height is also reduced significantly, but Tesla has been playing with it every now and then from the start. This is probably done to obtain an optimum point between utility and aerodynamic drag reduction.
  • Window expansion / Sleeper Cabin: The most significant change I encountered in this prototype is the expansion of the ‘window’. Now it expands to around 70% of the rear cabin’s (area behind driver’s compartment), this is seen for the first time. I think this is now slowly converting to a sleeper cabin as Tesla said it was in the works. In one of my 2018 articles on the Tesla Semi spotting, I speculated this area would convert to a sleeper and this space would be used as a sleeper cabin.
  • A black box above the 2nd cabin (sleeper) can be seen in the side profile photo above, this space was previously hollow (see old version photo below). Truckers need a sleeper and Tesla is surely going to give them one.
  • The rearmost panel has also extruded out a little and the curve on the bottom has been shortened to adjust for the modified side profile.

Electrical System Variations

The following two photos of the rear area of the Tesla Semi Truck show two variations of an electrical systems box. In one prototype, the box looks like a rectangular chest placed in the middle. The other prototype’s electrical system casing is more rectangular and smaller in size, it’s also placed on the left side rather than the middle.

For understanding, I have named these electrical junction box variations, Design Type 1 and 2. This used to be a deep hollow space in prototypes seen before this one (pic below), now they have utilized the space more efficiently.

Tesla Semi Electrical System Box. Design Type 1. Image credits: Cory Draper / YouTube (full walkaround video below). Click/Tap image to zoom-in.
Tesla Semi Electrical System Box. Design Type 2. Image credits: u/bigschlong24lg / Reddit, more images of the dirty Tesla Semi below. Click/Tap image to zoom-in.
Space behind the cabin of an early Tesla Semi prototype. Credits: Sean Mitchell / YouTube, full video and article here.

This variation in the electrical system box designs might also be due to the short and long range variants, 300 and 500 mile range respectively.

Tesla Semi prototype with the bigger electrical junction box was probably seen in Indiana, trucker/YouTuber Cory Draper shows us a detailed walkaround of this electric beast. This looks like a brand new un-used truck with the packaging material still intact in places, probably heading for a client demonstration.

The other prototype (pics below) was spotted in Chicago, IL, and was pretty dirty, most probably coming back from a rigorous testing session in muddy terrain.

During the Q4 2020 Tesla Earnings Call, CEO Elon Musk said that the Tesla Semi Truck needs at least 5X more batteries used in a car. So battery supply constraint is the main reason hindering the Tesla Semi production start. Although in a company email last year Musk told Tesla employees that it’s time to bring the electric Semi to volume production but the timeline seems to have been pushed to later this year.

Looks like production start delays are not getting in the way of more and more companies pre-ordering the electric hauler, Tesla just received its biggest Tesla Semi Truck order towards the end of last year. A Tesla Semi order tracking page that I have now maintained for almost the last 3 years shows that the Silicon Valley-based automaker has 788 trucks on the reservation with 41 publicly known pre-orders by corporations, small freight management companies, and individuals.

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White Tesla Semi prototype covered in mud spotted in Chicago, IL. Image credits: u/bigschlong24lg / Tesla Subreddit.

By Iqtidar Ali

Iqtidar has been writing about Tesla, Elon Musk, and EVs for more than 3 years on XAutoWorld.com, many of his articles have been republished on CleanTechnica and InsideEVs, maintains a healthy relationship with the Tesla community across the Social Media sphere. You can reach him on Twitter @IqtidarAlii