UPS places largest Tesla Semi order yet

UPS to expand its green fleet with 125 Tesla trucks.

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Since the unveiling of the Tesla Semi, we've already seen a lot of hand-raisers for the design-forward electric truck. J.B. Hunt and Walmart signed on to test the big rigs shortly after the event in California. Anheuser-Busch ordered 40, while Sysco opted for 50 units. Delivery company DHL climbed aboard before Pepsi signed up for a record 100 trucks. Now, as Automotive News reports, UPS takes the lead in orders, at 125 Tesla Semis.

According to the report, the deal is worth $25 million, at $200,000 per truck. That's the price of the highest-end Founders Series version of the Tesla Semi (the truck's base price is $150,000). UPS has said it will mostly deploy these in the U.S., and that this small fleet will allow the delivery company to give the Tesla trucks a thorough evaluation.

This is far from UPS's first order of alternatively powered vehicles. The company recently took delivery of the first Fuso eCanter electric truck from Daimler, and has worked with groups like Workhorse, Eaton Corporation, Electric Vehicles International, the Propane Education & Research Council and even the Department of Energy in order to reduce fleet emissions.

Despite our lingering questions about the Tesla Semi, it's priced competitively, and it's clear it could be very well suited to the needs of companies shipping over shorter distances. After all, Tesla estimates its Semi will save about $250,000 in fuel and maintenance over a million miles of driving.

Tesla originally said that pre-orders for the Tesla Semi would be $5,000, but raised that to $20,000 soon thereafter. Reserving the top-spec Founders Series costs the full expected vehicle price of $200,000. It might seem surprising that companies would be so eager to pre-order trucks from a company that many (even Elon Musk) deem overvalued and has a history of prolonged production delays. It could be they're serious about their desire to clean up their carbon footprint, and potentially save money in the long run.

It may also be that placing an order is a cheap PR move. Even if they were to never take delivery, that they raised their hands early is image-positive and highly visible. We reckon there's genuine sincerity on the part of these customers – UPS in particular has demonstrated its commitment to cleaner transport – but the optics are surely part of the cost calculation.

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