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Tesla’s Challenge: Build $30k Mainstream Electric Car by 2015

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Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk with Tesla Roadster

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk with Tesla Roadster

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 Build a $30,000 electric car in under four years. That’s the promise made last night by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. 

Speaking at the Cleantech Investor Summit in Palm Springs, California, the 39-year old businessman shared his plans for the venture-backed automaker. 

In addition to bringing the 2012 Model S sedan we saw moving under its own power earlier this week to market, Musk disclosed that Tesla would bring two more electric vehicles to market within the next four years.

Just to make things clear, Musk told the audience that Tesla’s Model X SUV would be one of the vehicles released. He added that it would be “Cooler” than any other vehicle of its type on the market. 

The $30,000 car? Well, that fits the specifications of the Tesla Bluestar and is probably the car Musk referred to in 2009 as the sub $30,000 car his firm would build “within five years”

Tesla Model S development schedule, from Tesla Motors 8-K, filed December 2010

Tesla Model S development schedule, from Tesla Motors 8-K, filed December 2010

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We all know Tesla has been looking to expand its line up for some time, slowly bringing in more affordable models to complement its premium luxury brand.

There’s very little time for the automaker to make good on Musk’s promises. In fact, we’d suspect that in order to make a market deadline of 2015, both the Model X SUV and the un-named mainstream car must be in the early stages of development. 

After all, it took Tesla nearly two years to take the Roadster from public unveiling to owner’s driveways. Admittedly, this was the firm’s first car: but then again, the 2012 Tesla Model S has taken nearly four years to reach its current state of development. 

Four years to develop a car is a short timeframe. In fact, that’s about the time it takes a major automaker in Detroit to develop a car with huge, seven or eight figure budgets. 

Do we want to see a $30,000 Tesla? Of course. We love the 2011 Roadster Sport 2.5 and would love to see a family car with a properly designed drivetrain and battery to provide more than enough range and speed to provide a family with its only car. 

If any automaker can do that, it’s Tesla. But we’re not questioning the end product: We’re questioning the time scale. 

Tesla Model S and Roadster

Tesla Model S and Roadster

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Of course, last year’s purchase of former NUMMI factory in Fremont, California will certainly help Tesla achieve its goal, but it would also require the company to grow in size by a huge factor in a very short period. 

However, Tesla and its larger-than-life CEO have already proven that with hard work, determination and some investment, magic things can happen. 

Hot air or reliable prediction of future success? 

We’re not sure. Musk also said in the same presentation that by 2030, all cars sold in the U.S. would be electric, an optimistic and idyllic view we’d place little money on actually happening. 

We hope to be proven wrong. 

 

[Gigaom]

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Comments (11)
  1. The elephant in the room is the battery required for such a project. Testla is getting close but with the help of Toyota, this may happen. The Nickel Metal Hydride battery, which is used in the Prius could have worked well but the Nickel Metal Hydride battery was made for GM and the EV 1. When GM foolishly crushed the EV 1s and put themselves in the back seat for electric cars, the Nickle Metal Hydride battery technology was sold to Chevron and Texaco. These lovely companies have supressed the building of any large Nickel Metal Hydride battery and that's why the Prius uses so many small batteries. This technology should not have been sold to these oil companies and only the stupidity and greed of certain people in the government caused this to happen. Hopefully Testla and Toyota won't be subject to this type of interferrence but who knows?
     
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  2. I would pay $50K for the sedan, NOT $100K with a 50% tax credit. The $30K is very aggressive and probably won't be met but I am glad they are trying! What ever they do the vehicle MUST have a range of 300 miles with the environmental system on line and working.
     
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  3. I have heard from my friend and mechanic that the little battery in the Ford Hy-Bred is over $7K. The technology is in the drive train. Go for it Tesla. Hope you put them all on the ropes.
     
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  4. Daniel,
    I don't get it with all the references to the NiMH battery. There are better technologies out there now... Why the conspiracy theories when none are needed?
    Nikki.
     
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  5. Mainstream Electric Car by 2015?!!
    30K is NOT Mainstream..
    15K sounds like Mainstream,
    probably 2020
     
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  6. The comment that all electric cars sold by 2030 will be electric is likely to be true. It is not a function of improving the battery or cost. It is a function of the availability of gasoline. It now cost 2-3 cents per mile for an electric car. It costs a little more than 6 cents per mile for a prius and double that for a typical gasoline car. What if gasoline increases in price to over $10 per gallon. The typical car will cost 25 times per mile more than an electric. Check out the video "The most important video you will ever see". It explains our gasoline future in mathematical terms. The video is humorous, enlightening, and very informative. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY
     
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  7. Electric Cars are nice, but once electric cars are more common, the government will start charging road taxes on the electricity they use. If you remove the taxes paid for gas from the equation, Electric cars are not that great of deal for areas that do not have cheap electricity.
     
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  8. Guzler: Don't worry, it will still be much cheaper on average, even with high road taxes. I know this from experience as until recently electric cars had to pay road tax here in New Zealand. Even with the extra 5 cents per kilometre, it worked out around 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of the average gas-powered vehicle. And that was when gas was $1.70 a litre. It's now $2 a litre!
     
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  9. Big words from "the Musk", but of course he tends to be a bit "larger-than-life". Remember that the Roadster came in years late and many millions over budget. If the same happens to the Model S it's all over for Tesla, and there will never be a $30K mainstream car. On the other hand, if Musk really delivers on his promise of a sub $60K car in 2012 he has a winner on his hands and if the rumour spread by ex-Tesla's Martin Eberhard and Toyota's Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada are true that Tesla's battery cost may drop to as low as $200/KWH, Tesla's future is pretty much golden.
     
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  10. OK, a $30K electric car would be a good thing, but why can't they design a $30K car I'd want to drive? Except for the price, the Roadster would be just about perfect, but I'm not going to be driving a 7-passenger sedan or an SUV, even if they run off pure green fairy dust!
     
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  11. I sure like what Elon has to say. He is a visionary and dares to dream. In order to score big one must push the technology envelop and Tesla is the only EV maker that is producing cars that are interstate roadworthy. The Leaf is but a mere urban commuter car with its 75-90 mile range. The Roadster is good for 240 miles and recently in a hypermiling contest in Australia one driver got 313 miles of range out of his Roadster. If Tesla can get the Model S to market this comming spring as planned and can deliver enough cars to satisfy the demands it will be finacially on its way of making a $30,000 dollar EV that people will want to own by 2015.
     
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