Unusually for me I’ve got a long list of things I want to blog about, but not so much time to write them. Always the way, eh? I’m working on another post at the moment, but I wanted to just make a quick response to the recent Tesla announcements. I wanted to say something that I haven’t seen many other people saying. I wanted to say that I’m worried about Tesla.
My worries are around two major themes: that Tesla might be going off plan; that Tesla might be having difficulties.
First of all, if you weren’t aware, Tesla recently announced their new “Semi-Truck” and Roadster. On the surface, both of these things seem great, particularly a new electric lorry from a world-leading EV manufacturer, but if you stop screaming Elon’s name for just a moment and think about it, it starts to become more worrying.
First, let’s look at Elon Musk’s “master plan”:
- Build sports car
- Use that money to build an affordable car
- Use that money to build an even more affordable car
- While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Tesla had begun step one when Elon bought into it and gained control of the company. They took the correct logical next step, to make a luxury car that would justify the expense of setting up the tooling and production processes to build electric cars. I’ve no doubt that creating a major car manufacturer is no easy task.
Then they built the Model X. The Model X was less affordable than the Model S, at least when it was launched. And was (is?) a lot more troublesome. That being said, it seems to have sold well.
Then they launched the Model 3. Thousands of people have put down deposits, before they even saw a car, and the vast majority are still waiting to receive a car. The production process has not been going very well so far. Some of that may have been out of their hands, of course, and they may be learning from their mistakes. However the 3 probably should have been the next car after the S, in order to keep to plan. They should be aiming for volume, as volume is where the profit’s at.
With that in mind, the lorry (sorry, it pains me to call it a truck) and roadster seem hugely out of place. Unless, of course, Tesla need a huge cash injection and they’re hoping that a fresh round of deposits on high ticket items is how they can raise that?
According to a report by Bloomberg, referenced by the Evening Standard, Tesla could be about to run out of cash. In which case they need to announce something amazing, grab some deposits, and then delay launch and production of the new vehicles (as they have done with each of the previous vehicles).
The original roadster raised the bar. Compared to the naff little city cars that were around at the time (anyone remember the G-Wizz?) the roadster was world changing. An electric vehicle that was fast, fun and had a reasonable range? Is that even possible? That car and the later Model S announcement rocked the world and pushed other manufacturers to have a go and see what was possible.
The Model S was incredible. It is luxurious, fast, quiet, can be updated and modified over-the-air like a mobile phone and is one of the safest cars on the road. Yes there have been some build-quality issues, and pound for pound you might be able to get more car with other manufacturers, but many still consider it the best EV on the market. I still do. It’s still my dream car!
The Model X is an OK car, it’s biggest advantages over the Model S (from my point of view) is it’s ability to carry 7 adults comfortably and it can have a factory fitted towbar (the Model S still can’t have a Tesla-sanctioned towbar?). That being said, it was largely a set of gimmicks - the gull-wing doors don’t make access any easier than a (much easier to engineer) sliding door, and who really needs a biological warfare mode on their car’s air filter?
The Model 3 is desperately needed. It’ll push other manufacturers to try harder with their battery technology and range. But right now there are better options I could recommend if you want an affordable EV. Hopefully it’ll be well built, but who really knows at this stage?
The new Roadster will be great, but there are other people building short-run electric supercars. And those are available now. By the time the new roadster is out, they’ll probably be able to match it on acceleration and top speed - not that you can use those on the majority of roads in the majority of countries. It wasn’t needed, not for the public, not yet.
So we turn to the lorry. It’s a mid-to-long distance lorry, but it has a realistic range of about 600 miles with an average load. That’s a good range for a lorry in the UK, and probably reasonable in Europe, but it’s designed for the American market. America is big.
The lorry can do 0-60mph, fully laden, in 20 seconds. But it will never be used to do that, because you wouldn’t want to keep accelerating and decelerating your cargo. In order to be quickly charged to be back on the road, it will need to be charged with a Tesla charger, probbly at the destination. A company like Walmart, that is regularly driving between the same warehouses and shops, might be able to put in the infrastructure. In that situation it can be charged whilst it’s being unloaded. But the average haulage company almost certainly won’t be able to make use of them. Not yet, anyway.
In the meantime, we have the short-haul and urban delivery routes that would benefit from electrification. A van or luton with a decent battery pack, regenerative braking and solar on top could easily cover it’s daily route on a single overnight charge given a big enough battery. They could be bought by any haulage or logistic company, or even freelance white van men.
Using EVs for these sorts of vehicles would rapidly reduce fumes in city centres. And yet the only people who come close to this at the moment are Nissan with their e-nv200 and Renault with their Kangoo Z.E., but these are smaller vehicles. The market is open for someone to come in at the Transit-type size and Tesla could easily have grabbed that market opportunity.
Tesla had, up until recently, been using Transit sized diesel-powered vans for their home-visit servicing, but decided to refit Model X’s for the purpose. It wasn’t a good brand fit, for obvious reasons. Did no one in the office say out loud “let’s make our own electric van, there’s a gap in the market here”?
If Tesla are struggling, and it certainly looks like they might be, have they just shot themselves in the foot by announcing their next two vehicles without considering what the logical next step should have been?
I also have problems with how Tesla are handling used and salvaged cars (and their owners), but I think my rant has gone on long enough. We’ll leave that rant for another day.
One day I want to own a Model S. I just hope that the company are still around by that point!