Elon Musk has just committed Tesla to its most ambitious project ever

Elon MuskAlex Wong/Getty ImagesTesla CEO Elon Musk.

You really have to hand it to Elon Musk.

He doesn’t think small.

After teasing a momentous update to Tesla’s 2006 Master Plan, which was authored before the company even had a car to sell, he set off much speculation about what the new version might contain.

We now know. And it contains at least one completely unexpected new product.

A Tesla Semi.

Here’s Musk at the Tesla Blog, where he laid it all out:

“In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport. Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year. We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”

Somehow, Tesla is going to build 500,000 vehicles annually by 2018 — and start a new business constructing heavy trucks.

Normally, car makers do this by separating the heavy truck business into another operating unit. But it sounds like Tesla is going to be a Very Big Electric Truck Company in addition to being a Very Sexy Electric Car Company.

Musk is right: all-electric freight-hauling platforms are probably a more urgent need in terms of his overall vision of hastening humanity’s exit from the fossil fuels era. But zowie! If it’s hard to build consumer-focused EVs, it’s that much more difficult construct big old semis.

Again, though, let’s hand it to Elon Musk. He never fails to surprise.

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