Everything we know so far

Everything we know so far

Everything we know so far

Tesla’s image has been overshadowed by Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase antics over the past few months. But the car company is still doing well despite its stock price plummeting like a stone. Tesla sold a record 1.3 million vehicles in 2022, with the Model Y doing particularly well. For example, it was the number three car in terms of sales volume in the UK. One thing that could really bring Tesla cars back to the public in a more positive light could be the arrival of the Next Generation platform. Here’s what we know about it so far.

Tesla’s next-gen platform will be cheap

The excitement surrounding the new platform is that, reading between the lines, it will be the foundation of the long-awaited “$25,000 Tesla.” While this has been delayed and unlikely to reach the 2023/4 timeframe initially discussed in 2020, it appears to be on its way. Much of what we know comes from Tesla’s third-quarter earnings call in October.

The first detail Musk revealed in October is that the next-gen platform will cost half of what it costs to produce the current Model 3/Y platform, which in turn has led to a dramatic reduction in their price compared to the Model S and X. 3 is not half the price of the S and the Y is not half the price of the X so don’t expect cars based on the new platform to be half the price of the Model 3/Y. But they will be another level cheaper.

Mass production expected, but not until 2025 – or later

The new platform will be the third mainstream platform from Tesla. Musk claimed that the production volume would far exceed the Model 3 and Y, and even surpass all other Tesla vehicle production volumes combined. It will use the full potential of manufacturing improvements such as the Giga Press, which casts large sections of landing gear in one piece.

However, those volumes are likely to arrive in 2025 or later, despite Musk saying the Gen 3 platform will be the “primary focus of the vehicle development team” from now on. This is because the Semi truck has finally shipped and Cybertruck production is set to begin in earnest, so these will be major new products over the next few years.

The 4680 battery will be central

The new platform will be smaller than anything Tesla has produced so far. Its capabilities will revolve around the new 4680 battery, which is finally beginning to appear in volume. In December 2022, Tesla confirmed it could now produce enough 4,680 cells for 1,000 cars per week. On Christmas 2022 the company claimed to have built 868,000 cells in the previous week. The lower cost of manufacturing the 4680 cell and structured battery setup (where the battery rigidity is part of the chassis, reducing the need for a separate structure) will help reduce costs.

Some predicted the new Tesla would have a range of less than 200 miles, but that seems unlikely given Elon Musk’s reluctance to produce vehicles with a range of less than 300 miles. The rear-wheel drive Model Y only manages 267 miles (WLTP), but it’s the only Tesla with less than 300 miles currently available for purchase. Tesla may be planning a more city-oriented vehicle that doesn’t need to be driven hundreds of miles a day, but in the U.S. market, it seems unlikely that any future Tesla will go much below 300 miles. Battery price cuts may have stalled a bit, but the direction is down, so fitting 300 miles into even a small, cheap car isn’t unreasonable. After all, MG is getting close to that range with the budget MG4.

Still fast, still autonomous

Another factor that can also be taken for granted is that Tesla is always fast. The rear-wheel drive Model Y is currently the slowest model available, and even this one can reach 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which would be fast for a hot hatch, let alone an SUV. So you’d expect the smaller Tesla to be at least as fast, and there’s likely to be a dual-engine Performance version that will approach the speed of the Model 3 and Y Performance. For all the European “race boys” looking for a fast electric hatchback that could threaten the neighborhood, this could be a dream come true.

Another feature you can guarantee will be some level of autonomous driving in all vehicles. This was something Musk promised for a $25,000 car that was discussed during Battery Day 2020. I recently predicted that FSD would be released in 2023, thanks to a massive beta test of 160,000 drivers in the US and the powerful Dojo supercomputer to be launched this year. Since Tesla is trying to refine this system with cameras only through Tesla Vision, it’s not such a leap to expect it to be cheaply implemented in a fuel-efficient vehicle. Indeed, Musk has claimed that the Next Generation Platform will be the one that will form the basis for the robot he claimed will be on the roads in 2020.

We will have to wait a little longer for the exact technical details of the Tesla Next Generation platform and its vehicles. They are to be unveiled at Investor Day 2023 on March 1. But with a key piece of the puzzle – the 4680 cell – now reaching significant production volumes, the next era of Tesla’s dominance in electric vehicles is imminent. It could come just in time if the US company is not usurped by Chinese brands that are starting to move beyond local markets like BYD and SAIC. Tesla’s next-generation platform will need to beat them in the market with a truly affordable electric vehicle to break into the mass market beyond luxury vehicles.

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