One of things I read about a lot is the revolution in energy and transport that’s coming to fruition currently. Over the last 5 years solar panels have plummeted in costs by over 80% destroying energy companies profits like never seen before and it’s now widely recognised that we’re going to see the same thing with batteries. By 2020 they predict the cost will be 80% lower than the already quite competitive costs we’re seeing now. It’s a fascinating story to watch unfold as it’s not only a new technology being brought into cars, bikes, skateboards and everything else, it’s also causing havoc in the energy industry which is pretty much one of the biggest industries in the world.
Whilst it’s a great story I also love to predict and run numbers so this piece is all about the upcoming Tesla Model 3. Now there are various tweets and remarks and such all over the web but I wanted to consolidate it all in one place and see how some of the calculations play out. As such I thought others might also like to read my results as they turned out to be quite interesting I think
I’m sure you’ve heard of the car company Tesla by now. You might not know entirely what they do, but their name has been all over the place for a while. They have many great products already such as their awesome Roadster, Model S, and just released Model X SUV cars as seen below.
Just in case you can’t tell by the end of this piece, I’m a big fan of Tesla as they’re doing amazing work in bringing electric cars to the masses with style, fun and legitimately good for the planet methods. If you’ve ever watched one of their announcements it seems I’m not alone in this feeling of gratitude. They have the atmosphere of Google IO or Apple Key Note events – just this time with cars or batteries. People openly cheer Elon Musk along as he awkwardly blurts out the new product or news (for all his genius he really isn’t the best speaker). More often than not the announcements are more about how the planet can actively transition to clean energy than the newly released product which I think speaks volumes. Their focus is on helping the world and they just happen to be doing that by selling amazing products that they openly give away the patents for in the hope others will copy and make the transition faster.
Most people I speak with about this know very few details about their cars besides the fact that they’re “electric or something“. Their most popular model so far is of course the Model S but unless you’re rocking a VERY healthy bank account you probably won’t be buying one of them any time soon as they start at around $125,000 and can go all the way up to $225,000 for the ludicrously decked out version that does 0-100km/h in 3 seconds flat, not bad for a 7 seater.
As far as cars go, it is pretty much the best one out there in that price bracket. Essentially if you can afford a car that’s $125,000+… then you’d have to be stupid to buy anything else unless you have some overly weird requirement like wanting to drive for 10 hours straight, with no breaks or stops. Tesla does virtually no advertising and all their products are usually sold out for a good year+ when they launch. When you compare the Model S to another similar priced car they are faster, quieter, cleaner, cheaper to run, cheaper to maintain, MUCH safer, have more trunk/frunk space, have a much more advanced infotainment system, can fit more people in them, are easier to manage in cold weather, can be tracked, monitored and controlled via phone app and they even get upgraded with new features over time. When you really dig into it they trump old school gas cars in pretty much every category handily. But this isn’t about the Model S, it’s about the soon to be released Model 3.
So What Is The Model 3?
Apparently Elon wanted to sell a Model S, Model X and then release the Model E, thus making a classic joke by selling the “SEX” car models. Hat tip to you sir! However there was an unforeseen snag when another car company complained that they were doing the “Model E” thing and so this name had to be changed to the 3. A very recent tweet that was immediately deleted also revealed that there seems to be a “Model Y” to come too, taking that joke one step further to “SEXY” but I digress. At its heart the Model 3 is the 3rd step in Tesla’s overall plan:
- 2008 – Tesla Roadster – At this early stage any electric car they built would be very expensive, so they decided if it has to be pricey, they’d build a super luxury car. It was very limited production (as they had little production capacity) and had a high price tag but it showed that a fantastic electric car could be built and there was a market for them
- 2012 – Tesla Model S and X – The next step was to build a medium luxury car to perfect the process of building an all electric car from the ground up. Think your BMW 7 series or Mercedes type luxury cars. This enabled them to do everything around the car being electric and sell slightly higher volumes too as there was more demand and higher production capacity by this point
- 2017 – Tesla Model 3 – This gets to the final step in what Tesla was started for, to build an “everymans” car and accelerate the world’s transition to electric cars. To build one that any normal person can afford to buy and sell hundreds of thousands of them with a very high production capacity just like other normal car companies do
So whilst the Roadster cost around $200,000+, the Model S then was a bit less at around $125,000+… and now we will soon be seeing the Model 3 come out and be what most would consider a much cheaper, “normal” car. In fact, Elon Musk (the CEO of Tesla) has gone on record many times saying that they’re aiming for half the price of the Model S. So let’s dig into some of its features…
Usually range is the number one stat for electric or hybrid cars and thankfully this is one figure that seems to be pretty consistent. In many online interviews, tweets and so on by Elon over the years he’s always referred to the range as being 200 miles or 320kms for us metric folk. Battery tech is always evolving and growing at ever greater rates, so we might even be treated to a longer range than that, but let’s just assume it’s 320km’s for now.
Given a distance of 320km’s we can quite easily work out what sized battery pack it’ll have (or at least the base range model). Currently the 70kWh Model S gets 420km’s while the 85kWh one gets 502km’s. That’s 6 km’s/kWh and 5.9 km’s/kWh respectively. If you use the dual motor versions that ratio goes up to 6.3 and 6.2 respectively. Again, it’s likely that with the improvement of battery technology this ratio will be higher once it’s released but let’s just be safe and use 6 km’s/kWh for now.
320km / 6 = a 53kWh battery pack. Seems a bit of an odd number though so I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that the base Model 3 will be an even 50kWh version with that same 320km range. Both the Model S and X ranges are all in very neat, even kWh amounts (70, 85 or 90) so I can’t really see Tesla breaking this trend and using a 53kWh one. So in summary we will most likely have a 320km range and a 50kWh battery pack to deal with.
That to me sounds quite reasonable given that even if you’re way out in whoop whoop land and making an insane 100km commute each way to work every day, that’ll still leave you with 120km’s by the time you get home. Each day you would return home, plug it in and wake up the next day with another 320km’s of range to burn. Many people point out that 320kms (or even 500kms with the Model S) isn’t “enough” to go road tripping from Sydney to Melbourne etc, however by 2018 there will be plenty of free Superchargers dotted around the place as well as other 3rd party places to top up. Even at 100km’s/h on a freeway, that 320km range is a good 3hrs of driving, which means most people will want to stop, stretch their legs, relax with a coffee, go to the toilet and/or eat something. All of which should give the car the time it needs to charge itself up to 80-90% charge (for free).
It’s also good to note that the 50kWh battery of the Model 3 is smaller than the Model S’s 70 or 85Wh batteries (which Tesla quote as being able to charge in around 40 minutes to 80% charge on the 85kWh model). So if an 85kWh battery takes 40 minutes to charge to 80%, that means a 50kWh battery should only take 23 minutes to reach the same level. At 80% the battery should be able to take you another 250km’s meaning it’d be charging at a rate of about 11km’s per minute. Couple that with a (likely) faster charger system by the time it’s released in a few years and you will be more looking at recharge times of about 20 or even 15 minutes for an 80% charge making things very easy.
The other point to consider is that most people rarely travel more than 320km’s, usually it’s only for holidays maybe once or twice a year tops. Compare the above “inconvenience” of having to wait 15 minutes for the car to charge every 320km’s (while you’re eating/relaxing/stretching/etc) to how often you currently have to waste time filling up your car with stinky petrol. Finding a station every week, waiting in the car queue, standing at the pump for 2-3 minutes inhaling deadly fumes, paying etc. You probably do that every week or so and that whole annoying ordeal will just never exist with the Model 3 as it charges at home every night like your phone. I’d argue it’s easily worth the trade off and from a pure numbers point of view it’s actually saving you time.
If you assume about 5 minutes per week for petrol refills (260 minutes / year) versus maybe 3 recharges of 20 minutes each equaling 60 minutes / year. You could go on four vacations, each travelling more than 1,000km’s (320 + 250 + 250 +250) and STILL save yourself 20 minutes over the course of a year! What’s more those four vacations wouldn’t have any fuel bills as the Superchargers are 100% free to use.
In this video Elon specifically answers the question of size stating that the Model 3 should be “about 20% smaller than the Model S”. I’ve grabbed the specs from the Model S, reduced them by 20% and put them below under the “Model 3”. There’s also some comparison sizes from the Mazda 2 and BMW 3 Series to give you an idea of how big this new car should be.
|Tesla Model 3||1,750 mm||3,976 mm|
|Mazda 2||1,695 mm||4,060 mm|
|BMW 3 Series||1,811 mm||4,633 mm|
So there’s a little variance between the numbers but either way, I’d be guessing that the Model 3 should come in at around 1.7-1.8m wide and 4-4.5m long.
The key thing to remember though is that just like the Model S and X, the Model 3 might have the dimensions of a Mazda 2… but the internal space will be vastly different. As there’s no big gas engine and all its associated parts, the Model 3 should have a trunk in the back as well as a frunk in the front. It will also have more space in the cabin for feet or things under/around the seats too. The overall result will likely be like hoping into a regular full sized sedan… but with the external dimensions of a smaller hatch. So a Mazda 2 on the outside, but Mazda 3 levels (or more) of space on the inside.
Model 3, our smaller and lower cost sedan will start production in about 2 years. Fully operational Gigafactory needed.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 2, 2015
That’s straight from the horses mouth. 2015 plus 2 years is obviously 2017, however you have to also remember that we’re in Australia which (unlike most of the world) drives on the wrong side of the road. So Tesla will need to spend another year or so designing and producing the right hand drive model. Based on the release of their latest Model X and how long it will be before Australia sees deliveries of them, I’d estimate that it should add about a year or so. Hopefully we’ll start seeing Model 3 cars on the roads of Aus around Christmas 2018 / early 2019.
Now in Australia, the base cost of a Model S is $106,000. They then add on luxury car tax, stamp duty, rego etc and the price goes up to about $125,000 drive away. Given that they’re aiming for half that base figure, the starting cost should be reduced to about $53,000. From here this price is UNDER the Australian luxury car tax threshold so that figure is $0. There’s still stamp duty and rego but depending on which state you’re in, it shouldn’t be too much more than $2,000 or so. As such, I’m estimating a base, drive away price of about $55,000 AUD given all the latest information.
You’ll likely want to add a few things to that though like the Autopilot features that drive the car for you in all sorts of situations (assuming it has the same feature options as the Model S). The metallic paints and different ranges/speeds for different versions might mean you could deck one all out and be paying upwards of $100,000… but that starting price is the key point. Even a base no frills Tesla car usually wipes the floor with a comparable gas powered one.
The other point to consider with price is that electric cars are considerably cheaper to run and maintain than gas cars. Petrol cars commonly get anywhere from 6 to 15 litres per 100km with the average being about 13L/100km. With petrol at about $1.40+ (probably higher by 2018) that’s around $18/100km traveled. Electricity on the other hand (at night time) costs around the 18c mark per kWh. A 50kWh battery means 320km of range would cost $9 to fully charge or $2.80/100km traveled. So if your car does 13L/100km, take your yearly fuel bill and cut it by 85% and that’s how much you’d be paying to drive a Model 3 instead. An average yearly travel of 15,000km would save you $2,280 just in fuel alone. Then there’s also the much lower maintenance costs as there’s no fluids or spark plugs etc to deal with. Even if you only keep the car for 5 years that’s a saving of over $11,000.
So after going through it we can generally estimate that the Model 3 will have the following specs:
- $55,000 AUD+ Drive Away (minus $2,300+ fuel savings every year)
- 320km Range (Likely a 50kWh Battery)
- Can charge up 250km’s of range in 23 minutes at Superchargers for free
- 1.7-1.8m Wide And 4-4.5m Long
- Delivery Late 2018 / Early 2019
$55,000 is still a pretty decent price (although if you include the 5 year savings on petrol you could even argue it’s more like $45,000) but I would expect the Model 3 to be quite luxurious. They will likely copy over the stunning 17″ screen infotainment system that the Model S and X has, all the autopilot features, the fantastic looks and sleek, beautiful interior as well as the remote control/monitoring functionalities. It will likely go like a bat out of hell too, Tesla doesn’t really “do” slow or average cars and that price will allow them to use a very similar (if not the same) engine design as the Model S and X have. Given the Model 3 will be substantially lighter too, I wouldn’t be surprised if it accelerated from 0-100km/h in around 5-6 seconds. The upgraded models will more than likely be able to do it under 3 seconds beating out Lamborghini Gallardo’s at a much reduced price.
Either way, just like the Model S is now the smartest buy for anyone looking to burn $125,000+ on a car, I’d be betting that any car maker that prices their cars above $55,000 come 2018 will be in a decent bit of strife. Tesla are constantly pushing the limits whilst existing car makers are stuck in the mud still trying to figure out how Bluetooth works most of the time. There are a LOT of cars that are around $55,000 (eg. A Mazda 6 Atenza at $50,000) and they aren’t too special at all meaning most will quickly flock to the Model 3 instead. Also given that Tesla will be able to produce the Model 3 at scales in the 500,000/year amounts, production capacity won’t be as much as a problem as it is with the Model S now.
So if it was available now would you buy one? Why or why not?
Either way I hope all the analysis was interesting for some, next week I’ll return to the regularly scheduled broadcasts unless there’s other new tech people would enjoy me analysing?