DHL orders 10 Tesla Semi trucks

Deutsche Post AG's DHL said Tuesday it has preordered 10 of Tesla Inc.'s (NASDAQ:TSLA) Semi trucks, joining a growing list of large transportation companies looking to test the all-electric vehicles.

DHL Supply Chain, which handles logistics operations for retailers and manufacturers, intends to use the heavy-duty Tesla trucks for shuttle runs and same-day customer deliveries in major U.S. cities, the company said Tuesday. DHL also plans to test the electric trucks on longer runs, and to evaluate its impact on driver safety and comfort.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk unveiled the Semi earlier this month, promising the first models would hit the road in 2019, and run up to 500 miles on a single charge. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. said shortly after the announcement they had reserved vehicles, and other logistics and transportation companies have followed suit over the last couple of weeks.

In most cases, the orders have been small, with buyers planning to test out the Semi on short routes, such as between ports and nearby warehouses, or warehouses and stores. That reflects concerns about the vehicle's range -- a diesel truck can run up to 1,000 miles on a single tank, or twice the Semi's maximum. Some analysts also question the weight of the battery needed for even a 500-mile run, which could limit an electric big rig's ability to carry a full trailer of freight.

Still, the specifications Mr. Musk announced exceeded expectations for many industry observers, and its price is competitive with diesel trucks, analysts with Morgan Stanley said in a note Monday. Tesla expects the vehicles to list for between $150,000 for a 300-mile range vehicle to as much as $200,000 for a "Founders Series" truck. A new diesel-powered big rig can sell for $150,000. The cost to reserve a Semi has jumped, to $20,000 for a base reservation from $5,000 at the time of the initial announcement.

DHL Supply Chain has been working with Tesla over the past few months and has test-driven some of the vehicles in California, said Jim Monkmeyer, the division's president of transportation in North America. The company ordered the trucks last week, for $5,000 per reservation but hasn't yet worked out the vehicle specifications or final cost.

Tesla declined to comment.

DHL Supply Chain plans to use the Tesla trucks on dedicated delivery and pickup runs for automotive and consumer products customers, ferrying freight to and from factories and to distribution centers. The runs "would be local," he said, though that could still mean hauls of "hundreds of miles" within a region.

Mr. Monkmeyer said he isn't concerned about timely delivery from Tesla, which has faced delays with production of its Model 3 sedan.

"Something like this that's new and is as complex as the Semi, I don't know if we can count on specific dates. We understand the challenges that they are facing," he said. "This is the future and we want to be in on the ground floor."

Fortigo Freight Services Inc., a Canadian logistics firm that manages trucking fleets for retailers and manufacturers, last week reserved a Tesla Semi for about 26,000 Canadian dollars ($20,000), the company said Tuesday. The balance, just under $181,000, will be due "when the Tesla is delivered, date to be confirmed," said Elias Demangos, Fortigo Freight's CEO.

The company has about 500 trucks, with an average run of 100 or so miles a day, Mr. Demangos said.

"Our longest run would be about 400 miles. They're city-to-city points mostly," he said. "For us, at 500 miles, that's perfect."