Walmart Canada triples Tesla Semi order

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Walmart Canada is more than tripling its initial order for Tesla Semis, as the retailer looks to convert 20% of its fleet to electric vehicles by 2022.

The 130 trucks represents the largest known order for the yet-built Tesla units in Canada, and is one of the largest reservations for battery-electric commercial trucks overall.

Elon Musk first unveiled prototypes of the Tesla Semi in 2017. (Photo: Tesla)

Walmart Canada’s day cab fleet returns to the dock every night, and comfortably operates within the Tesla Semi’s promised operating range and gross vehicle weights, says Francis Lalonde, Walmart Canada’s vice-president – transportation. “We’re way, way, way south of the 500-mile [800-km] limit.”

Tesla unveiled plans to produce the Semi in late 2017, but pushed an originally promised 2019 production date to 2021. While Lalonde expects units to arrive next year, he wouldn’t reveal how much it cost to reserve the trucks.

The battery-electric trucks themselves are part of a broader commitment to have all 500 Walmart Canada drivers operating trucks on alternative power sources by 2028. Such equipment will be put into service as existing leases expire.

The company has also committed to producing zero emissions through its global operations by 2040.

“It’s all about innovation at Walmart,” Lalonde says.

The retailer is already in the midst of establishing the related charging infrastructure that will be required.

“Right now we’re building the infrastructure to have a couple of scenarios open from a charging infrastructure standpoint,” Lalonde says, referring to work on converting power for the charging stations. “Tesla has provided a lot of guidance.”

More than lower emissions

But the Tesla advantages are not limited to lower emissions alone, he adds.

“The additional safety features of the trucks are just awesome, and I’m super-excited about that part as well,” Lalonde says. “I sat in that truck a year ago, and I was really impressed by all this additional technology.”

Promised driver safety features include automatic emergency braking, automatic lane keeping, and lane departure warnings. Cameras and sensors will be used to detect objects and minimize blind spots.

“I firmly believe now this is going to be the safest truck out there,” he says.

Walmart Canada daycabs operate well within Tesla’s promised operating range. (Photo: Walmart Canada)

The order is the latest announcement included as part of a broader $3.5 billion investment in Walmart Canada’s supply chain. The company is investing $1.1 billion alone to build two new distribution centers in Vaughan, Ont., and Surrey, B.C., and update an existing distribution center in Cornwall, Ont.

Other distribution-related investments include warehouse management systems, sensors in more than 2,200 trailers, and artificial intelligence software to predict and plan volumes. It’s also invested in developing a blockchain platform with Toronto’s DLT Labs.

Walmart has made several recent commitments to enhance the sustainability of its operations. New distribution centers will be zero-waste facilities, and all material handling equipment is being converted to lithium ion or hydrogen.

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