2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011
Relative few companies regularly make major announcements via their CEO's Twitter account, but electric-car maker Tesla is different.
From software updates to dates for new product lines, tweets from Tesla's CEO Elon Musk routinely make news.
And so it was this week, when Musk announced the months in which the company plans to reveal designs for two new products, more or less.
Tesla Semi truck unveil set for September. Team has done an amazing job. Seriously next level.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 13, 2017
@NoahMagel Pickup truck unveil in 18 to 24 months— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 13, 2017
While Tesla's main task by far this year is to get its smaller Model 3 sedan into volume production without notable quality glitches, Musk is obviously thinking about its plans well down the road.
As shown above, he said that Tesla will unveil its design for a heavy commercial semi tractor this September.
What such a product might be remains to be seen, given the enormous loads hauled by commercial tractor-trailer rigs and the challenges of battery packs with sufficient energy density to move that weight without significantly affecting cargo weight.
The only company thus far to propose an electric semi tractor, Nikola, plans to use a hydrogen fuel cell combined with a battery pack to power its Nikola One zero-emission long-haul tractor.
Other companies are targeting all-electric commercial vans, including Amp Electric with its E-Gen walk-in van powered by a 200-kilowatt (268-horsepower) electric motor powered by a 60-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.
UPS is now testing the E-Gen, along with a slew of various other trucks running on alternative powertrains: not only plug-in electric, but also natural gas, hybrid, and even hydraulic hybrid energy storage and motive power.
Musk's other tweet, concerning the much-discussed Tesla pickup truck, suggested that the company would unveil its design "in 18 to 24 months."
That would put the date sometime between October 2018 and April 2019.
Pickup trucks are a huge and very profitable segment in North America, with the Ford F-Series lineup of trucks the country's single best-selling vehicle.
GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler make a disproportionate percentage of their profits from those trucks, which now have an average selling price of more than $40,000 each.
Startups exist for that segment too, notably Workhorse (now owned by Amp Electric), which has proposed an all-electric pickup truck.
Similarly, Bollinger Motors will unveil its electric off-road utility truck this summer.
Given its name recognition, enthusiastic customers, and production experience, however, whatever Tesla chooses to do in either segment will likely change the industry—if these vehicles arrive as planned.