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Tesla bull: Elon Musk's new semi-truck may ignite a commercial war

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.