Tesla Wants to Build Texas-to-California Semi Charging Route

It Would Be a First-of-Its-Kind Charging Network in the US
Tesla Semi
At an energy conference in Austin in June, CEO Elon Musk said the Tesla Semi probably wouldn’t be produced in large volumes until next year. (Benjamin Fanjoy/Bloomberg)

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Tesla Inc. is seeking nearly $100 million from the U.S. to build nine electric semi-truck charging stations along a route from the southern border of Texas to northern California, according to emails seen by Bloomberg News.

The company proposed each be equipped with eight 750-kilowatt chargers for Tesla Semi vehicles and four chargers for trucks made by its competitors, its executives said in emails to the Texas Department of Transportation between May and early July.

If successful, it would be a first-of-its-kind charging network in the U.S. It would enable longhaul electrified trucking from Texas to California, along with regional-haul trucking in Texas, Arizona and California. The U.S. relies heavily upon commercial trucks to move goods, but has struggled to limit the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Tesla executives told Texas officials the corridor could qualify for federal grants that will be disbursed as part of a major new bipartisan infrastructure program created to modernize U.S. transit systems, among other aims. Tesla asked the state officials to write a letter in support of the big rig-charging project to include in its funding application, which was submitted in June.

Tesla Semi charging map

A representative for the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, which is overseeing the grants, said the agency is “currently reviewing applications.” It expects to announce recipients “later this year.”

California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District led the application on behalf of Austin-based Tesla. Aaron Katzenstein, an executive at the office’s technology advancement unit, said Tesla is seeking $97 million of federal money and plans to put up $24 million itself.

It’s unclear if the company would pursue the project without a grant. Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The roughly 1,800-mile route begins in Laredo, Texas, which is about 240 miles from Tesla’s Austin headquarters and 150 miles from the location of a new factory it’s building in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

The company already has a presence at that border crossing. In 2022, Tesla was given an exclusive lane to help shuttle parts from suppliers in Mexico to its factories in the U.S., which is now still mostly being traversed by combustion-engine vehicles.

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Tesla first unveiled a prototype of its electric Semi in 2017, though the company has struggled to bring it to market. It finally delivered 15 trucks to PepsiCo Inc. late last year, but some of those initial vehicles broke down and the company issued a recall in March.

In regulatory filings, Tesla still says the Semi is in “pilot production.”

At an energy conference in Austin in June, CEO Elon Musk said the Tesla Semi probably wouldn’t be produced in large volumes until next year. He partly blamed the delay on issues the company and its partner Panasonic Holdings Corp. have had making batteries to enable the truck’s advertised 500-mile range.