Elon Musk Lays Out Future Plans for Tesla

Tesla logoElon Musk continues to defy the conventional wisdom of the armchair pundits, who claim that widespread adoption of electric cars is still decades away. They claim electric vehicles (EVs) are impractical, unappealing, too expensive, with no charging infrastructure, plus they take too long to charge. One by one he has removed these barriers with his Tesla cars.

His first two models are selling well, despite efforts on the part of several states to block the company’s direct-sale model. Despite this, and the lofty price tag, Teslas are consistently the top-selling electric cars on the market. (We’ll come back to that price issue in a minute.)

Tesla has set up a supercharger network across the U.S. that will allow transcontinental drives (as long as you follow certain routes). The supercharger technology is exclusive to Tesla cars which are configured to accept higher current levels, allowing them to charge relatively quickly, at least compared to other EVs.

Still, it can take an hour or more to charge up, more time than most people want to spend at a gas station. Sure, you can stop for lunch, if that fits into your schedule, but we Americans tend to be busy people who are in a hurry as often as not. Tesla has an answer to that, too.

If you had a battery that would last as long as one were willing to drive in a day, then it wouldn’t be a problem. You just charge up at night, wherever you are, ready to go again the next day. In a recent interview with AutoExpress, Musk said: “It will be possible to have a 500-mile range car. In fact we could do it quite soon, but it would increase the price. Over time you could expect to have that kind of range.”

In fact, Tesla is planning an upgrade to its first car, the Roadster, that will substantially increase battery range from its current 245 miles.

“The Roadster had an old generation battery,” he told AutoExpress. “We’ll upgrade it to a new generation battery pack and it should have a range of about 400 miles, which will allow you to drive from LA to San Francisco non-stop.”

How many people are going to want to drive more than 500 miles in a day? Even if you did, you’d probably be happy to stop somewhere for an hour, where you and your car can get something to eat. Once that capability is available, it’s going to really put a dent in sales of combustion vehicles. For me personally, the only thing that would stop me at that point would be price.

This brings us to the next point: Prices are coming down. Musk described the outlook for the new Tesla Model 3. You can see pictures of it, which, at $35,000, is priced to compete with the new BMW 3 series.

Now, $35,000 sounds like a lot of money for a car, for those of us who are not in the BMW league. But when you consider the fuel savings you will realize over the car’s life, these vehicles turn out to be surprisingly affordable.

Take an average gasoline-powered vehicle, which today gets 29 miles per gallon, and compare it to a Tesla Model S, which gets the equivalent of 95 mpg, and drive each car for 100,000 miles. Based on today’s national average fuel prices, you will save $11,458 over the life of that car. When you add to that the fact that electricity prices have remained stable compared to gasoline prices (which were $1.50 back in 2001), the savings could be considerably greater.

The Model 3 will be unveiled in 2016 and available for sale in 2017. It is expected to be about 20 percent smaller than the Model S and based on an entirely new platform. The car will have a range of more than 200 miles and strong performance like the Model S. Says Musk,  “We want people to fall in love with their car and look forward to driving it.”

Tesla also announced plans for an R&D center in the U.K., which is expected to contribute to the new car.

The future is coming at us, faster than we might have imagined. Some of you already have an EV. More of you will have one for your next car, and, I think, quite a few more will have one for your car after that.

Image credit: Randychiu: Flickr Creative Commons

RP Siegel, PE, is an author, inventor and consultant. He has written for numerous publications ranging from Huffington Post to Mechanical Engineering. He and Roger Saillant co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails. RP sees it as his mission to help articulate and clarify the problems and challenges confronting our planet at this time, as well as the steadily emerging list of proposed solutions. His uniquely combined engineering and humanities background help to bring both global perspective and analytical detail to bear on the questions at hand.

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RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com

77 responses

  1. The charging issue should be a no-brainer. Design the car such that the batteries are easily swapped for fresh ones at the charging station.

    I know those suckers are heavy as heck, but surely some equipment could be built to manage these swaps rapidly.

    It would be like having a propane tank. You pay a one time deposit for the tank itself and then a fee when you swap the empty for a full.

    1. Battery swapping just doesn’t make economic sense. Why duplicate the most expensive part of an EV? Especially when such great progress has been made in lowering recharge times. 50+% recharge in 15-20 minutes.

        1. What Tesla stations? They haven’t built a single battery swap station since their demo over a year ago. I’m very familiar with the clip you referenced. That’s the demo from June 2013.

        2. Fair enough. Though I would argue that if there is a market for it, then that would make it “make sense.” Seems like there would be some kind of a demand for a 90 second solution as opposed to 20 minutes, but I’m just guessing.

        3. The problem is what it would cost to do versus what they could get paid. They use the same robot they use in the factory to swap the battery. Those robots cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The batteries themselves cost tens of thousands of dollars as well. So you’ve probably got $500+k invested. Elon Musk said they’d charge the amount you’d normally pay to refill the gas tank on a competing car, say $60-80. How many people are going to pay $60 when a free supercharger is also available? I don’t think there would be very many.

      1. If Tesla finds a way to lower the charging time for complete “fill up” — or for about 200 miles — to 10 minutes or less, there won’t be any compromise left that would be any advantage for gas powered cars.

        1. That’s a LOT of power to transfer in 10- Minutes, 60-85kwh. You never know of course, but it would probably raise the cost of both the charging station and the battery itself.

          The real issue is when will the cost of batteries come down to the level that EVs can replace common vehicles like a Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, etc. Those vehicles can typically be purchased in the $22-25k range and have ranges of 300+ miles. THAT’s when you’ll see EV sales explode, millions per year.

      1. not that big of an issue, cause gas stations essentially do the same thing.
        I think Hunter3203 is right, there’s just no point doing it cause charging times are increasing

  2. Eric they do have battery swap technology. Google it. It costs about the same as filling a tank of gas and they can swap it out in less time than filling a tank. All you do is swing by the station on the way back from where you were going and swap your original battery back in

    1. Good to hear. See…this makes way more sense to me than waiting until the battery technology comes up to speed. It just seems silly to have to wait for the batteries to be charged. Yeah, it’s probably pricier in the up front, but would solve the distance anxiety folks have, immediately.

        1. Not really. It takes a $500+k robot to install such a battery. You think your local gas station is going to foot that bill? Especially if they can only charge $60-80 for a swap.

        2. Once Tesla starts selling the model 3 and Tesla cars become common and ordinary, I think you’ll start seeing third-party charging station and battery swap station for Teslas popping up all over the place. It’s just a matter of time.

        3. third party battery charging stations exist already across the country and are continuing to grow. Tesla is NOT the only game in town. In fact, the Nissan Leaf is the best selling EV and the most numerous eV.

          battery swapping is it dead end. It is simply not worth the investment in either the equipment necessary to change the battery or the investment in additional batteries to be available to swap. Batteries are by far the most expensive part of an EV so why in the world would you duplicate them? Especially since supercharging gets you all of the benefits of battery swapping at a fraction of the cost.

        4. With this swap station costing $500,000.00, Could we say that if such battery swap station opens 16 hours having an EV every 15 minutes the gross income at $60.00 per swap is $3840.00 per day or $1.401,600.00 per year? I am not in the business to say the cost of the solar power system demanded for this kind of application and the type of operating expenses involved but I glimpse great potentials.for the future.

        5. Lol. And where are these 64 customers per day going to come from? Who wants to pay $60 for a swap when they can use the supercharger for free? There’s a reason there’s not a single Tesla battery swap station operating today, over a year after Elon Musk demoed the capability.

        6. I’ve heard of tech that will charge your phone the instant you apply power to it . I’m sure the chagrin issue will be resolved one day

      1. Why the fuck pay for an electric car if your just going to go to the solar powered recharge stations and pay gasoline prices because you can’t wait 30 minutes for a free recharge because your an entitled asshole

        1. Then you should have planned ahead. My Tesla is my daily driver, and I can drive a week without charging my car. At some point I’m going home, where there is plenty of electricity.

        2. Yeah! Those stupid entitled Non-Tesla drivers. They’re SO SPOILED. I hate those guys.

        3. Yes entitled assholes usually do equate grammar with intelligence or actually having anything to say

    2. They demonstrated such technology but only did it to maximize their EV credits. Those credits are from CA and their rules require a full refuel/recharge capability in 15 minutes to get the max credit. Tesla has sold those credits to other automakers for tens of millions of dollars.

      There are currently no Tesla battery swap stations in operation. And it’s no hard to figure out why. Why build a $500+k battery swap station and keep expensive battery packs on hand when you can build a supercharger station for 1/10 of the price and people can get a 50+% recharge in 15 min?

      1. Tesla sold the last of their energy credits years ago, well before they demonstrated battery swapping.

        Tesla demonstrated battery-swapping hoping to finally shut people up about their range anxiety issues. “But I can refill my tank with gasoline in just a few minutes” is the only response some people seem to have to the Tesla. Well, Tesla’s demonstrated you can do that with their EV, too!

        The reason there are no swapping stations is because there is no demand for battery swapping. Why would you want to pay a fee to risk your pristine, single-owner battery pack on whatever they happen to load in your car, when you can recharge in an hour’s time for free, and have a nice lunch in the meantime?

        1. If you were not aware:

          1) The ZEV credit market is dried up, Tesla has not earned a penny from ZEV credits in 3 quarters and doing better than ever with 25% gross profit margins.

          2) CARB removed the battery swap from being eligible for credits anyways.

          I do agree that the battery swap was a proof of concept just in case but in reality, no one is going to use it. Tesla will build some test swap stations but I doubt there will be any real demand.

        2. I am aware that CARB changed its rules and that Tesla’s income from such credits was drying up.but, I was responding to people who were talking about battery swapping as a current issue and that tesla had not received e_v credits in years.

        3. Gee, I was off by six months. But I had the sequence right, which disproves your point. And the real point is made by WeaponZero; they’re still profitable well after the credits are gone. Spin all you want, baby, the facts is the facts.

        4. lol. How do you figure 6 months? You said years, not months. Tesla received EV credit through most of 2013. Actually, Tesla is not profitable. Gross margin is not net income. that’s a fact, not spending like you.

  3. The equipment is already in use in Japan. They are testing it for a city’s taxi fleet. The swap takes about 5 min., same as going through a car wash.

    The problem with doing this on a personal car is that the battery is an integral part of the value for the entire vehicle. If you are swapping out battery packs then the car has to have a value and the pack a value and then that has to be factored into the use of the car for resale. It would complicate resale / insurance replacement too much.

    As for the propane tank example, the car industry could use aluminum air cell backup units. The cells could be a backup if you run out of regular battery power and you could swap them out after they have been used up. They are recyclable too.

    1. The battery swap assumes you need a battery both directions of your travel. So you swap out on the way over, and get your original battery charged on the way back. You pay extra if you keep the swap battery.

    1. Fuel Cells are dead on arrival, Toyota is only releasing them to get ZEV mandates with less cars.

      I mean who is going to pay 2-5 million per fill up stall? Not Toyota.

    2. Toyota and the Japanese government are committed to the Titanic that is hydrogen as if Japan has not suffered enough from blind faith mad schemes
      they are at it again.

    3. I think Toyota is planning to buy Tesla, as they have already worked closely in the past and Musk has said he is open to selling Tesla for the right price. So with that plan in place Toyota can move on to being first (one of) in the hydrogen market as there are going to be vehicles that just wont make it as pure electric.

      1. Not happening. Tesla is not for sale. If any major auto manufacturer ever bought Tesla, the company will never achieve what Musk has envisioned.

    4. Absolutely no hydrogen infrastructure out there for these things. It will take forever for them to be practical. Even at that, producing hydrogen is a net energy loss. You can plug an electric in anywhere there’s a plug even a wall socket, but trying to find a source of hydrogen is a whole different challenge.

  4. I can’t wait till I my current car is paid off enough to get an EV. It will be a Tesla simply because he is the ONLY company out there saying F You to big oil in every way possible. And on the direct sales note, screw you car dealers. Better develop new skills because if I have to go out of state to get my Tesla I will.

    1. big oil loves electric. with the new tighter limitations on coal, guess what you are going to need to generate all those electrons…. natural gas. there is so much natural gas now that the market is flooded and prices are exceedingly low. oil companies just burn off natural gas as waste as it is too expensive to build infrastructure to move it.

      once we all drive electric, natural gas is going to be expensive again and oil will be sitting pretty still.

      go get yourself some solar panels, LEDs, and quit using air conditioning if you want to turn the screws on big oil. this country consumes far more electricity to get away from petroleum fuels for a long, long time.

      1. Not entirely accurate. Aggressive transition to electric cars will put very little additional strain or demand on our grid. (see the Edison Institute study here http://www.edisonfoundation.net/iee/Documents/IEE_FactorsAffectingUSElecConsumption_Final.pdf)

        It works like this: Household electricity usage in the US is 30% of our nation’s usage. An electric car takes as much electricity as Half a House. If every household in the US went out and got an electric car today, we’d see a 13% increase in our electricity demand. Our grid can handle that…we’ve got 15% to 25% surplus capacity in most regions anyway. We wouldn’t even need to build new power plants. PLUS….folks will likely charge their cars over night when there’s generally low energy demand anyway.

        But we’re not going to see INSTANT transition to electric cars. We’ll see a gradual increase over time.

        RIght now electricity demand is growing by around 1%, sometimes less, sometimes even negative. A twenty year transition to electric cars would barely nudge that annual growth in electricity demand…and in fact we’re that as homes become more efficient and folks transition to energy efficient appliances and LEDs….those gains almost cancel out the growth.

        I’d also like to point out that RIGHT NOW wind and solar are price competiive with natural gas and getting cheaper. As the transition to electric cars moves forward over the years, so too will come the transition to wind and solar.

      2. Well I wouldn’t say that, EVs are far more efficient than a gasoline vehicle, so you would be using far less than you would before. If they raise prices on natural gas, it would make them less competitive vs other forms of energy generation.

        Now obviously we are not going to move off oil any time this decade. But I wouldn’t say they love electric.

      3. The price of solar is dropping and will cross that of natural-gas-fueled electricity within a decade or two, fracking notwithstanding. Then there’s wind and nuclear. Natural gas for electricity makes sense in the short run because you get more kwH for less CO2 and less dollars, but in the long run its highest and best uses are for home heating and as a feedstock for manufacturing fertilizer, plastics, etc.

      4. Elon is ramping up Solar Charging stations that won’t need Natural Gas.
        That’s the future.. and Big OIL hates the thought of it. That’s why you see so many anti Electric *anything* articles. Elon doesn’t need Rockefeller Slime to get the job done. He’s also planning batteries that are constantly recycled into the next waiting car. The battery won’t be part of the value of a used car, but you will have to pay the one time privilege to let your battery become part of the system. That privilege is what will be valued separately and should always be close to the new car buyin price. Your used Electric car will be its value sans battery + the privilege cost of using the battery re-charge system. Batteries in the ‘re-charging system’ will be constantly replaced as they grow old and paid for out of the general re-charge costs. Of course there will still be a profit to be gained in running re-charge stations. Look for Big Oil to try to get a head lock on that business too.

  5. It must be nice to sit in an ivory tower with 100 megabaud data rates and type out all the objections to a new age of electric vehicles… but you know what. There are still millions of people who only have DIAL UP speed. Does that mean the electronic age and internet access is going to fail because you can only still mostly get it in the city?? Why is anyone even willing to print garbage about the limitations of electric vehicles..??? Cuz they are funded by Big Business, Big Government, Big Banking?? Just stop reporting from the bought and paid for journalists and start giving us the real development story, plans, successes and hopes of a change that will finally end the exhaust pipe as the worst polluter of planet Earth that has ever guzzled a gallon of gasoline.

    1. Plus right now Americans are guzzling Canadian Tar Sands oil. In the future when the US has 400 or 500 million people there is going to be a massive water shortage. Canada was blessed as a fresh water paradise. But here is the problem every single barrel of Tar Sands oil is using 3 barrels of water and requires two tonnes of sand and uses massive amounts of energy to produce what is all tolled less energy just like Fracking costs and uses more in then you get out. 100 years ago you could put a cup into any river or lake in Canada and drink it. Today thanks to industries like the Tar Sands what may still sometimes look like a beautiful river or lake is poisoned and contaminated and the locals have the cancers to prove it.
      So here is the thing 70% of the imported oil used in the USA is Tar Sands oil that uses massive amounts of water in its process. A future US government could even engage a military invasion of Canada to take the water for a half billion populace USA but the joke will be on you because the water will be poisoned.

      1. At the rate things are going, Canadians are going to be facing a wave of illegal immigrants trying to escape the heat of Montana.

        Unless the Tesla and other climate-preserving technologies succeed.

  6. “Still, it can take an hour or more to charge up, more time than most people want to spend at a gas station. Sure, you can stop for lunch, if that fits into your schedule, but we Americans tend to be busy people who are in a hurry as often as not. Tesla has an answer to that, too.” – Completely overblown. I have a Leaf with a puny 72 mile range on the highway, BUT, every morning I leave my garage with “full tank” so to speak. That was about the same a 1/3 of a tank in my old gas powered car. Sure, Americans don’t want to spend an hour charging, but how often will you need to charge mid-day when you’re car starts with 200 miles every morning when you leave? That’s the equivalent of half a tank or less of gas in an average car. How often does anyone burn half a tank just going about their daily business? With an electric you just plug it in when you get home and it’s charged by morning.

  7. Is Nicolas Chauvin and his LENR Car a complete hoax? Or is there hope for that yet?
    What about Thorium. I understand that it is far more scalable than I had thought. I know that there is a great deal of work with Thorium Reactors in India and China.
    There are so many ways to skin this cat, that it just tickles me.

    1. Nicolas Chauvin is just an experience enthusiastic entrepreneur.
      He have a good network because of previous activities, and because of a dynamic tour around LENR labs and corps… He made some presentation, filed some patents on LENr application, participate to MFMP tests, but no reactor, nor any expensive research.

      It seems that most of his income came from consulting in waste to heat technology.

      LENR-Invest managed by a relation try to find funding, and have alredy participation in some projects (lenuco, brillouin)


      I put more hope in LENR-Cities, who don’t have any reactor, but is building a network, an ecosystem to research, develop, apply and sell… They need a core with researchers, big corps, dynamic startups, funding… so more researchers, companies, startups, investors, enter the ecosystem.


      They have some big announce (that they implemented what they planned) for September. we wait for the media and the boss to go back from vacation.

      we need to translate also the document for the announce.

      meanwhile maybe the report of E-cat 6month test by the Swedish team will be published (I doubt, since the peer review is probably enforcing huge opposition). Rossi may also make a show with the factory he currently works on…
      My feeling is that it will have no impact, not because it is void, but because if the evidence had any ability to convince, it would be done…

      the Big Whale of LENR-Cities will do a better job in convincing other whales that they will finish in a tuna can if they don’t adapt.

      Physicist will join the reality when the funding will stop in their current research and flow in LENR.

      have good vacations.

  8. hello again, the batteries are not the issue, recharging is. If we could charge when possible.Solar would charge when stopped, wind would charge in motion

  9. i notice elon never mentions dual carbon battery’s which charge 20 x quicker, last longer and will never light up, hes over invested in lithium as far as i am concerned, from what i understand there is not that much lithium anyway, look for aftermarket switches to dual carbon batterys for all electric cars in the future and for whatever oem goes dual carbon to begin with they will win the electric car battle

    1. Anyone who wants to deliver an Electric Car next year will be using the very best of Last Years battery tech.. NOT next years. There is no limitation in sight for lithium at this time. Yes .. by the time there have been a hundred million Electric cars, there may be a shortage. That bridge to cross isn’t here yet. The biggest hurdle at the moment for ANY new product, is just getting it on its wheels and out the door. Using Li-ION does that job rather nicely and having more Li-ION batteries for those first million cars is vital.. so Elon is doing what he has to.

    2. “A new battery developed by Power Japan and Kyushu University promises
      that – and more. The researchers describe their battery as “dual carbon”
      since both electrodes are made out of carbon. They claim that their
      design not only has high energy density, but is also economical, very
      safe, reliable, and environmentally sustainable. Most importantly, it
      can charge 20x faster than its Li-ion counterpart.” Dated May, 2014. When this is proven and available LAST YEAR, NOT NEXT YEAR.. and all its claims have been tested and verified.. maybe it will be in the running in a 2016-2018 design.

    3. “A new battery developed by Power Japan and Kyushu University promises
      that – and more. The researchers describe their battery as “dual carbon”
      since both electrodes are made out of carbon. They claim that their
      design not only has high energy density, but is also economical, very
      safe, reliable, and environmentally sustainable. Most importantly, it
      can charge 20x faster than its Li-ion counterpart.” Dated May, 2014. When this is proven and available LAST YEAR, NOT NEXT YEAR.. and all its claims have been tested and verified.. maybe it will be in the running in a 2016-2018 design.

  10. (1) The Tesla rocks. My son brought his out to Colorado from California. We drove out to a trailhead for a hike and returned afterward, round trip about 40 miles, and the electricity cost of the drive was about a dollar, assuming electricity costs 10 cents per kwH. A car that gets 40 mpg in the mountains would still have gone through over $3 worth of fuel.

    (2) The Tesla’s not for me. When we go to Colorado from Texas, the day is 15 hours and close to 1000 miles, two drivers sharing the load. Tesla can make a lot of drivers happy but cross continental binge motoring is not in its bag of tricks.

    1. Two points to you second point…
      (1) Probably A LOT safer to stop for ~30 min every 2 hours… instead of ‘powering through’ for 15 hours straight.

      (2) If you drive CO-TX in a car that gets 30mpg then in the 30 minutes you wait you’re getting ~5 gallons worth of fuel for free. IMO saving $40/hr to sit around and do nothing is a pretty good deal :) I’m usually eating Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner…

    2. Yep.. but Colorado is very near to over two million people. That’s why we need electric cars. binge flying of light planes to Hawaii doesn’t work either.. so umm can’t go to Hawaii by light plane so maybe light plane flying is a bad idea and we should all work on swimming.. umm.. NOT. When something is out of YOUR reach.. that just represents a challenge, not a failure and certainly not a reason to poohpooh and idea whose time is finally here. You are only five years away from being able to drive non-stop from Texas to Colorado.. or have a re-charge somewhere along US287 when the right support finally wakes up and stops fighting electric cars.

  11. What they should do is swap the batteries at the station, then keep the old battery from the car they swapped the charged one with. Then, they could charge the old battery so they would have an unlimited supply of batteries ready to be swapped with other cars.

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