Tesla: A Lot has Happened in the Last Year
Since I last wrote about the unveiling of the Powerwall Home Battery in May, a lot has happened over at Tesla. Shortly after an April Fool’s Day press release poking fun at recent smartwatch announcements from competitors, Tesla introduced the Model S 70D, an all-wheel drive car with a 250 mile range at 65mph. With a starting price of $75,000, the 70D is a slightly more affordable version of the Model S for those who don’t wish to give up features such as access to Tesla’s Supercharger network (which, by the way, now has 48% more locations with 71% more plugs). The S 70 and S 70D made Car and Driver’s 10best list, and I’m guessing the Model S will make Consumer Reports’ list of best cars and SUVs for the third year in a row.
In September of 2015, the first deliveries of the long-awaited Model X began. Those lucky enough to have received their SUVs are happy about the 257-mile range, faster-than-ever acceleration, and the Falcon Wing doors, allowing easy access to the second and third row seats. In October, the Model X 70D was announced in a tweet by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, though the tweet was later deleted. If Musk’s tweet turns out to be true, we will probably see a model with 75kWh battery unveiled in October of 2016, given Tesla’s history of improving battery tech by 5-10% each year.
Though we’re barely more than a month into 2016, it’s already an exciting year for Tesla. After the Tesla Version 7.0 software release in October 2015, the Model S gained the Autopilot feature, which includes the ability to steer itself within a lane, change lanes, manage speed, and even parallel park on command. Version 7.1, released on January 10 in an over-the-air update, introduced the Summon feature, allowing drivers to control their Model S or Model X on their phones. Summon will park and shut down your car, or open your garage door and pull out to greet you when you’re ready to hit the road. While Tesla is asking drivers to use this feature on private property for now, Elon Musk believes this is a step toward completely autonomous driving, which he expects will be possible within the next 24 to 36 months. Given that Tesla just hired renowned microprocessor engineer Jim Keller as Vice President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering, we’re sure to see some impressive advancements in the Autopilot and Summon programs. Eventually, Tesla vehicles will be able to drive themselves to meet their owners anywhere in the country. Of course, we’ll need to see some progress in laws regarding driverless cars, especially across state borders, something which is already causing challenges in the state of California.
In their 2015 earnings report released last week, Tesla announced that they expect to ship 80,000 to 90,000 Model S and Model X cars this year, causing shares to rise by up to 10% in after-hours trading. Other news from Tesla includes the upcoming announcement of the Model 3, which will cost $35,000 even before federal subsidies. The base model will come with two-wheel drive, but an all-wheel drive version will likely be available for a $5,000 upgrade, similar to the difference in price for the all-wheel drive configuration on the Model S. Of course, the most exciting part is the affordability of this forthcoming model – its $35,000 price tag will put it in line with the Bolt. With federal subsidies, it may even end up costing significantly less. Tesla has confirmed that the Model 3 will be unveiled on March 31 and rolled out in 2017. The Model 3 could help Tesla meet its goal of selling 500,000 electric cars per year by 2020. In the meantime, Tesla has begun installing their Powerwall Home Batteries in the US and Australia, with the first residential Powerwall installation taking place in Australia this month.
I can’t wait to see what else Tesla has in store for 2016, and I will be sure to share with you as I learn more.