A few months back, Tesla was approved for low cost loans under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program. In response to criticism and in an attempt to be forthcoming with the public, Tesla VP of Business Development Diarmuid O'Connell wrote a post on Tesla's blog explaining where the funds from the federal loans will be used. Interestingly, O'Connel revealed that the Model S will be used as the basis for an upcoming electric minivan.
O'Connel stated, "The Model S platform will also be used for derivatives including a minivan, cross-over utility vehicle and a utility van for fleets and other industrial or civic uses." This is the companies first mention of a minivan version of the Model S.
Flash back to an article we posted mid summer of this year highlighting the need for a hybrid minivan. ( To read the full article click here.) It appears as though no automakers have stepped up to the challenging task of producing a hybrid minivan that will suit "minivan moms." However, there appears to be strong demand for an efficient minivan and many interested buyers, but automakers are mum on decisions to build a hybrid minivan. Quotes directly from some competing manufacturers are listed below. The likes of Toyota, Honda, Chrysler and GM are included, but all responses are similar. No hybrid minivan plans at this time.
According to Toyotaspokesperson Bill Kwong, "currently, there are no plans to bring a hybridminivan to the U.S." "We are still studying it," says Kwong. "We have nothing to announce at this time."
"Honda has not announced any plans to build a hybrid minivan," says Honda spokesperson Chris Martin. "Beyond that, we don't comment on future product, real or potential."
"As the inventor of the minivan, Chrysler has obviously considered hybrid versions," said Chryslerspokesperson Nick Cappa. "In select programs, like the DOE initiative, we plan to build a small test fleet of plug-in hybrid minivans." But no plans for mass market products.
"Nothing to announce at this time about a hybrid minivan," says GM spokesperson Brian Corbett. "But that is a vehicle application our 2-mode hybrid system is capable of handling, so I wouldn't rule it out."
Well if hybrid minivans are still years away, Tesla may be able to market its electric minivan with few if any competitors in the market. Electric powered minivans could prove to be the ideal application of electric power. The trips in a minivan are typically short in length. Runs to the soccer field, grocery store, school, drug store and such are daily tasks that are short in length and duration allowing the vehicle to be plugged in again upon returning home.
The minivan platform offers space needed for a battery pack that could offer a range well above 300 miles on a charge. Eliminate "stow and go" seating, and you are left with a cavernous area for batteries. Perhaps Tesla is on the something with the electric minivan idea.
The market for minivans, though no longer booming, is still a large market with room for high sales number. Tesla's need for a high volume vehicle is apparent and vital to their success. Let's hope Tesla can make this work!