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Tesla's teaser photo of the semi. (Tesla)

Wall Street's most prominent Tesla bull says an electric semi-truck that the company plans to unveil later this month might be 70% cheaper to operate than conventional diesel-powered vehicles, and may ignite a fierce contest to dominate a nascent market in intelligent trucks.

In a Sept. 6 note to clients, Morgan Stanley's auto team said it expects Tesla CEO Elon Musk to start taking $5,000 refundable deposits on the truck right after the unveiling, using the same method that in 2016 created outsized buzz around his Model 3 mainstream electric sedan. If the truck attracts thousands of orders — which the note's lead author, Ravi Shanker, said he considers a likelihood — Musk will create pressure on rivals to compete, and fleet owners to order even more trucks.

The bottom line: Shanker thinks semi-trucks will turn into a several-billion-dollar-a-year business for Tesla.

"If the order book fills up quickly," Shanker wrote, "any carrier that holds back placing its order could potentially have to wait several years to get its hands on a Tesla truck, years during which its competitors could be running with up to a 70% cost advantage."

In other speculation and observations, Shanker wrote:

  • The truck to be revealed later this month will be a concept vehicle or a prototype and not meant for sale.
  • The final semi will go on sale in 2020.
  • To keep the cost down to $100,000, it will come without a battery.
  • Tesla will use a swapping system so that truckers won't have to wait for the battery to recharge.
  • The truck will be capable of autonomous "platooning," the system whereby driverless trucks are digitally connected and thus can follow behind a human-driven lead truck.
  • Tesla could earn $11 billion in revenue from semi sales by 2028 by selling 25,000 new trucks a year, and servicing them and their batteries.
  • Tesla has been testing the semi on public roads for several months.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
11 mins ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

How smartphone cameras became the best cameras

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For years, the smartphone has been the most convenient camera, and in recent years it has also become the easiest and most versatile camera. But this year's high-end smartphones have taken things to a new level — capturing images that would be either tough or impossible even with a high-end digital camera.

Between the lines: Traditional cameras have the advantage of bigger sensors and better lenses, but smartphone cameras are rivaling and even surpassing them by tapping computational power.

The rise of vegan food in unexpected places

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vegan cuisine is popping up in two places it wasn't present before: fine dining and fast food.

Why it matters: The single biggest way an individual can reduce their carbon footprint is to eat less meat and dairy. Now, the popularization of meatless meals could help curb meat consumption in the U.S.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
41 mins ago - Health

Experts predict an easier COVID winter this year

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

This winter probably won't bring another crushing COVID wave, experts say.

Why it matters: Last winter was the deadliest phase of the pandemic, and many Americans are braced for cold weather to once again usher in a surge in cases and deaths. But there are good reasons to think this year won't be nearly as bad.

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