Tesla Inc. says its production plan for its new electric Semi heavy-duty truck remains in a low gear because the special battery cells the big rig needs are in short supply.

The Silicon Valley car maker said this week that it plans to deliver “our first Tesla Semi by the end of the year.” Ramping up production to meet that goal will test Tesla’s

ability to scale and to meet pledges to fleet owners in an industry more focused on cost and performance than the typical Tesla buyer.

“Scaling production is very hard,” Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a Wednesday earnings call. “So a big part of the reason — the main reason we have not accelerated new products is — like, for example, Tesla Semi — is that we simply don’t have enough cells for it.”

Unveiled in 2017, the Semi was initially promised to be in customer hands in 2019. Its arrival has since been pushed back two years, delays that Musk has repeatedly attributed to battery-cell supply constraints.

Musk said Tesla is “extremely confident” about its ability to produce long-range trucks with batteries. The company has said the Semi will have a range of up to 500 miles, and would use about five times more battery cells than Tesla’s passenger cars.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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