By Kirsten Korosec
November 15, 2017

Tesla CEO Elon Musk will unveil an electric semi-truck Thursday in Hawthorne, Calif., as the billionaire entrepreneur expands the company’s portfolio beyond passenger vehicles, solar, and energy storage in his larger pursuit to build a sustainable energy economy.

The first part of that mission, which centered on passenger cars and solar, has been outlined on the company’s website for more than a decade. The second piece is newer—at least in the public realm—and is where the Tesla semi-truck comes in, along with other goals like solar roofs that are integrated with battery storage and autonomous driving capabilities.

Musk’s efforts to kindle excitement—and media coverage—in the truck and the Thursday event have hardly been subtle There are the Tesla semi truck teaser photos on Instagram and the messages on Twitter with bold promises that, like any responsible student of science and pop culture, contains at least one Rick and Morty reference.

On Wednesday, Musk gave the hype crank a few more turns. After posting a teaser photo on Instagram of the Tesla semi-truck, he wrote in a comment “This is no mere “truck.” It will transform into a giant robot, fight aliens, and makes one hell of a latte.”

Push past the Internet theater and on it’s own the Tesla semi-truck represents a notable milestone and new level of risk for the company. Scaling up a new product line will take capital, which Tesla is already pouring through as it tries to ramp up production of its new Model 3 production line.

The Tesla semi-truck also faces competition. Tesla did have to go up against major automakers when the company first launched. But its product—an electric car—was essentially an outlier.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk teased an image of the upcoming electric semi-truck that will be unveiled Thursday, Nov., 16, 2017.
Courtesy of Tesla

This time, Tesla will go up against other companies trying to develop electric semi-trucks and smaller delivery vehicles. Other potential rivals include Bosch, Cummins, and Daimler. A number of companies such as Siemens have pilot programs already in place to test the viability of electrifying commercial trucks. And there are a few startups also pursuing the some variant of that electric trucking or delivery van goal, including Chanje, Nikola, and Wrightspeed.

This isn’t even taking into account other companies like Proterra that are building electric buses.

At Tesla’s semi-truck event Thursday, Fortune will be looking for answers on those critical nuts and bolts details that will be critical to its success. Some of our Tesla semi-truck questions include: what is the range and the driving cost per mile? What will the charging infrastructure be and how much will it cost to build out? Are there customers?

Tesla is already in “production hell,” as Musk has put it numerous times, with the Model 3. So how and where the Tesla semi-truck will be produced is on top of the list.

 

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