Cheaper batteries, faster Superchargers, AWD, Model X, etcElon Musk was recently in Europe, where the company is expanding rapidly. He spent an hour answering questions from Tesla owners and would-be owners at a kind of town hall event in Amsterdam. As usual, he was very candid and revealed many interesting things about the future of the company.
Here's the video of the event (sorry about the shaky quality, it was obviously filmed by someone in the audience):
Our friends at Autoblog Green compiled some highlights from the presentation:
- Version 6.0 software is a few weeks away and includes real-time traffic information as well as increased suspension functionality, like lowering and heightening on command.
- Supercharger production is maxed out and installs are happening at a rate of around five per week.
- Superchargers will soon pump power at an impressive 135 kW rate, but will plateau there.
- An AWD Model S will be coming, perhaps around same time as the Model X.
- Bigger battery pack options may arrive as soon as next year.
- The new giga-factory for batteries could bring costs down by at least 30 percent, ideally 40 percent and will produce about 30 gigawatt-hours worth per year.
- After ramp up, volume production of Model X is expected to begin around April 2015.
- To improve comfort, there will be a seat modification available in the near term, and a different seat option available in a year (or so).
- Battery swapping between Los Angeles and San Francisco should be online in a few months.
- The company has analyzed energy usage in production process and claims energy payback happens in less than 10,000 miles. May release white paper on this soon.
While potential customers might be more excited about things like news of the Model X or an all-wheel drive (AWD) version of the Model S, the most important things are in my opinion the part about the new "giga" battery factory and how it could cut costs by "at least" 30%, if not 40%. Because the battery pack is the most expensive part in all electric cars right now, this would make a huge difference in pushing EVs towards a more mainstream price point. Tesla's next-generation platform, which aims to be high-volume and low-cost, will no doubt benefit from that, but it'll also push the rest of the industry to scale up and reduce costs. This giga-factory deal with Panasonic will have ripples across the whole industry...
Another very good news is that there will be yet another upgrade to the Supercharger network of fast-charging stations. When they were first unveiled, the Superchargers were faster than anything else yet they topped out right below 100kW. Musk now revealed that, after a few upgrades, these stations should reach 135kW. This is great news because it makes all current and future Teslas more practical and it helps destroy the tired old anti-EV arguments that "it takes too long to charge" and "you can't travel long-distance". And like the giga-factory, this arms race will push the rest of the industry to improve its fast-charging stations, make them free-to-use and faster, etc.
His comments about the energy payback of a Tesla electric car are very intriguing soon. I won't speculate on what their findings were exactly, I'll wait for the white paper to come out, but it's great that they're looking into that kind of lifecycle analysis stuff because there's a lot of misinformation about electric vehicles out there.
As for the upcoming Model X, it should be an important vehicle because it has the potential to attract more SUV and crossover buyers than the Model S sedan. It's not only a large market segment that is ripe for disruption, but these vehicles also tend to be less fuel efficient than sedans, so going 100% electric makes an even bigger absolute difference in the amount of CO2 reduction.