One of the most anticipated and longest waits for an electric truck must surely be the Tesla Semi which after many delayed planned launches finally broke cover earlier this year and started hauling demanding loads for the likes of  Frito Ley, potato chips are incredibly heavy after all.

It seems however that Tesla’s unique centre seat driving position and slippery aerodynamic design have inspired some imitators, with a Chinese brand rolling out a new electric prime mover that apes the Tesla Semi and is likely to further ignite trade wars between China and the USA.

The electric truck that appears to have been inspired by the Tesla Semi was recently spotted in China and spy shots suggest the cabin layout has the driver in the centre, with an additional seat on either side in a 3-seat cabin configuration, just like the Tesla Semi.

The JAC electric truck is reported to have two electric motors, each producing 246kW, with a top speed of 89 km/h, but unlike Tesla’s permanently mounted battery the JAC reportedly has a swappable battery pack, a bit like  the Australian Janus concept. Reports are that the JAC has a  range of about 350 km compared with the alleged Tesla range of 500 km.

High-volume production of the Tesla Semi hasn’t even started yet, but the Chinese doppelganger appears to have already emerged. on. the roads of its home country

The images of the JAC look alike emerged when a Tesla owner spotted the Semi lookalike on a freeway in China – the camouflaged test mule truck was on a flatbed, trailer on its way to summer testing.

The electric semi-truck was apparently on its way from Hefei, in China’s central-eastern where JAC has its HQ and main manufacturing operations.

At first glance, the camouflaged truck seems nearly identical to the Tesla Semi, however if you look   closely you’ll notice the absence of the signature wraparound glass and a  lack of wing mirrors. The Chinese knockoff even has digital camera housings above the windows.

When Tesla first showcased its Semi, it had camera-based wing mirrors, but they were placed at the rear of the cab, unlike the ones seen on the knockoff. Last year Tesla dropped its digital mirrors in favour of traditional wing mirrors.

Suggestions have been made that the Chinese truck could have vision-based advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Although it could also have radar. A square cut-out that appears to house radar sensors is seen in the video. Moreover, it has a glass roof, unlike the Semi.

The rest of the exterior design appears strikingly similar to the Tesla. The cab-forward stance with a sloping front fascia, the wheel design, and even the lower air intake looks identical. The driver-focused interior appears heavily inspired by the Semi as well. It gets a central driving position, two big screens on either side and a passenger seat on the rear right side.

In other images from Chine a similar JAC truck  has been spotted with different visual elements. Its mirrors, wipers, and front section are visibly different from the  earlier camouflaged prototype and the photo location apparently translates to “Heavy Vehicle Branch of Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Co., Ltd, Hefei.”

It’s not the first time that  a Tesla Semi clone has bobbed up. In 2019, California-startup Neuron EV showcased two electric vehicle concepts with Tesla design cues.

Design similarities often invite legal troubles, as was the case between Tesla and Nikola – with the latter alleging that the Elon Musk-led brand was involved in patent infringement with respect to the Semi’s design. But Nikola dropped the $2 billion lawsuit last year.

The choice of making the JAC’s battery packs swappable is an interesting one and as more trucks get electrified, they will probably get megawatt-hour-capacity battery packs and charging speeds ranging from about 350 kW to 1 MW, and even faster in future.

For large fleet operators and also for truck stops on the major highways in a lot of countries, depending on how busy they can get, and looking at it simplistically, having, say, 50 stalls at the very big truck stops or depots would work out to 17.5 MW to 50 MW!

The reality is that 50 MW is equal to the electric capacity of a small town, and the rollout of a 50-charging-stall setup at hundreds of truck stops — s will be the same as upgrading or developing new substations and associated grid infrastructure for hundreds of new small towns.

Deliveries for the Tesla Semi started in December 2022, with initial batches going to Pepsico and its subsidiary Frito-ley. However mass production is unlikely to begin until late 2024.