Loblaw to be early adopter of Tesla's all-electric Semi

Canadian grocer Loblaw has ordered 25 of Tesla’s all-electric Semis, as part of an effort to move its fleet of delivery trucks to low-emission vehicles.

J.B. Hunt puts in firm order, while Walmart says it will test 15 of the electric trucks

Tesla's new electric semi-trailer was unveiled during a presentation in Hawthorn, Calif., on Thursday. Walmart and J.B. Hunt are to test the vehicles. (Alexandria Sage/Reuters)

Canadian grocer Loblaw has ordered 25 of Tesla's all-electric Semis, as part of an effort to move its fleet of delivery trucks to low-emission vehicles.

It joins Walmart and U.S. trucking company J.B. Hunt in committing to try the new technology as an alternative to diesel.

Tesla unveiled the Semi, a Class 8 truck with a range of of 800 kilometres at maximum weight at highway speed, on Thursday.

The Semi can recharge the battery enough in 30 minutes to go 640 kilometres, according to Tesla founder Elon Musk. That compares to diesel trucks capable of travelling up to 1,600 km on a single tank of fuel. 

Musk promised to build a global, solar-powered network of "megachargers." 
Loblaw says it will transition its delivery fleet to electric vehicles and has ordered 25 Tesla Semis. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

As part of its commitment to reduce its carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030, Loblaw has said it will eventually make all its corporate-owned trucks electric.

It has also bought another semi truck, made by BYD, the world's largest manufacturer of electric vehicles, which is soon to open a plant in Canada.

Trucks on the road by 2019

Tesla hopes to have the trucks to market by 2019. It has not revealed the price of the trucks, but said it believes they will be cheaper to operate than diesel.

J.B. Hunt has reserved an unspecified number of trucks for the U.S. West Coast market, where trucking fleets are facing increasingly stringent California emissions legislation.

Hunt's statement followed a rejection of the new vehicles on Thursday by Old Dominion Freight Line, the United States' fourth-largest less-than-truckload carrier. Other carriers were also more cautious.

Walmart told CNBC it wants to test how the technology performs in its supply chain. It has ordered 15 of the trucks, including 10 to be used on Canadian roads.

"We have a long history of testing new technology – including alternative-fuel trucks – and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle," the company said in a statement to CNBC.

"Carriers have been skeptical about the heavy-duty tractor applicability to their models, given questions regarding torque, total hauling capacity, and recharging infrastructure," said Benjamin Hartford, a sector analyst with brokerage Baird.

"(J.B. Hunt) the first mover, particularly with regard to Tesla, but we expect other carriers to follow as electric tractor viability becomes proven."

Tesla shares rose about two per cent Friday morning after the announcement, though Tesla has fallen far behind on its production schedule for the Model 3 mass market consumer vehicles.

with files from Reuters