Tesla says its future sports car will have a top speed of over 400km/h (250mph)

Tesla says its future sports car will have a top speed of over 400km/h (250mph)

Tesla surprised analysts with its latest financials. Cash burn in the fourth quarter wasn't as bad as many had expected, even though the firm announced its worst quarterly figures yet, with a US$657m loss. Will the company eventually succeed in its mission to make substantial profits from electric cars?

All of the attention surrounding Tesla Inc continues to be centred on the Model 3, the firm's most affordable vehicle. What many are not considering is that the company should also right now be pouring engineering resources into not only additional cars but also the replacement for the Model S. This big hatchback remains the best selling Tesla and it has been in production for more than five years now. So a successor shouldn't be more than two, possibly three years away from release.

With a sports car, a pick-up and a heavy truck all being worked on - along with the ramp up of the Model 3 and probably the early stages of the second generation Model X too - this company must be running flat out just to try to comply with what its CEO has already announced is planned. Launching all of these vehicles plus a facelift for the Model X before 2021 is going to be an especially tall order.

Sedan

The company's smallest vehicle is the Model 3. It differs from Tesla's larger cars by having steel rather than aluminium panels. 

The first Model 3 was delivered to Elon Musk on 7 July 2017 and 29 others were built by the end of that month. These were obviously not series production vehicles. The company held a ceremony just after midnight on 29 July 2017 to officially reveal the Model 3.

There are two versions:

  • Standard: US$35,000, 50kWh battery pack, claimed range of 220 miles, zero-60 in 5.6 seconds, 130 mph top speed
  • Long Range: US$44,000, 75kWh battery pack, claimed range of 310 miles, zero-60 in 5.1 seconds, 140 mph top speed

The goal of manufacturing 5,000 cars per week has been pushed back yet again.

Only the most expensive Long Range was available during the first months of production. Tesla has said nothing about AWD variants (the Standard and Long Range are RWD). The company is claiming that 130 miles of charge is possible after 30 minutes on a Tesla Supercharger and 30 miles of range per hour on a home charger via a 240V outlet.

Unlike the larger Model S, the Model 3 has a landscape format 15-inch tablet display which is positioned on top of the dashboard. There are no gauges in front of the driver, nor is there a head-up display.

"There is not much of an instrument panel", Elon Musk told the media at the event, "because cars will be increasingly autonomous so you won't really need to look at an instrument panel. You'll be able to do anything you want - watch a movie, talk to friends, go to sleep. Every Tesla has all of the hardware for full autonomy: 8 cameras, 12 sonar, 4 radar."

The Model 3 would be Tesla's first new car to have its batteries supplied from the so-called Gigafactory, Tesla Motors and Panasonic stated in July 2014. The Nevada facility, which officially opened in January 2017, produces cells, modules and packs for Tesla's electric vehicles and for the stationary storage market. The plant is to produce 35GWh of cells and 50GWh of packs per year by 2020.

On 2 August 2017, Elon Musk stated publicly that the company had an order bank of 455,000 cars and that anyone ordering the Model 3 at that point would have their car delivered in late 2018. Tesla would be producing 5,000 vehicles per week by the end of 2017, and 10,000 per week by the end of 2018, Musk insisted.

The firm missed it own target of delivering 1,500 units of the Model 3 during the third quarter of CY2017. Instead, it built 220 cars. The company subsequently delayed its target of building 5,000 cars a week. Twice.

In 2017, a combined 101,312 Model S and Model X vehicles were delivered, making a total of 103,957 cars in all.

The latest information from Tesla is that it built 2,425 examples of the Model 3 in Q4. The company claims that it is now making 1,000 cars per week and says it expects to lift this to 2,500 a week later in Q1.

The goal of manufacturing 5,000 cars per week has been pushed back yet again. Now, this will not happen until the second quarter, Tesla expects.

This 4.7m long five-seat sedan has a Citroen CX-style boot/trunk opening rather than a hatchback, while the roof is glass.

The Model 3 was to be the main product driving Tesla's May 2016 claim that it would be building 500,000 cars a year by as soon as 2018. Previously, the company had said it would reach such a level during 2020. Tesla built 76,230 cars in 2016 which compares to a stated goal of 80,000. In 2017, as well as the 2,645 units of the Model 3, a combined 101,312 Model S and Model X vehicles were delivered, making a total of 103,957 cars in all.

The Model 3 will likely have a minor restyle in late 2021. A second generation Model 3 will probably not appear until 2025.

Hatchback

The Model S is a big seven-seat, five-door hatchback. In January 2007, the company said the car, which was once known only as the WhiteStar, would go on sale in the USA in 2009. In October 2008 this suddenly changed to mid-2011. This then became October 2011 and then, in November 2010, the estimate shifted again, this time to 'mid-2012'. In June 2012, the company announced a launch event but stated that the first cars would not be delivered until 'the fall'.

A prototype of the Model S was shown to journalists at an event in March 2009. The car had five adult-sized seats with two smaller rear-facing seats where a conventional vehicle's boot would be. Luggage is stored in the front of the vehicle.

Three specs of battery pack were originally available; the base car was said to have a range of 160 miles, the mid-range 230 miles and 300 miles for the priciest variant. The cheapest model, with the shortest range, was dropped in April 2013, due, Tesla claimed, to its relative unpopularity.

Cars for The Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany went on sale in August 2013. They have their battery packs fitted at Tesla's Tilburg distribution centre in The Netherlands. Some refer to this building as an 'assembly plant'.

The second generation Model S is scheduled for release in late 2019.

Right-hand drive cars became available in June 2014, which is when the first UK deliveries took place.

All-wheel drive became available from the second quarter of 2015, for North America's 2016 model year. The all-wheel drive 60D, 85D and P85D were announced in October 2014. The D, which stands for 'Dual', denotes two electric motors. The second motor is mounted above the front axle. In RWD cars, the motor is above the rear axle. As for 60D, 85D and P85D, the numbers denote whether the car has a 60- or 80kWh battery pack or else the so-called 'Performance Pack'.

The P85D was at launch claimed to be one of the world's fastest accelerating sedans, reaching 60mph in 3.2 seconds, a full second faster than the P85. In April 2015, Tesla announced that the 60D would be replaced by a 70D. This two-motor variant is claimed to be able to travel 240 miles between charges and deliver 514hp to all four wheels. The former 60D had a range of 208 miles of range and a power output of 380hp.

A facelifted Model S range was announced in April 2016, production starting soon after. The line-up became as follows:

  • 70 (315hp)
  • 70D (328hp)
  • 90D (417hp)
  • P90D (463hp, or 532hp with Ludicrous upgrade)

An even faster P100D variant was announced in August 2016. This has a 100kWh battery pack and a range of up to 315 miles and a claimed 0-60mph time of just 2.5 seconds. The P90D was then dropped in November 2016.

The second generation Model S is scheduled for release in late 2019 but given all the other projects which the company is juggling, it is probably running about a year late.

SUVs

Model Y, the smaller of two SUVs, is yet to be given a firm release date.

Model Y, the smaller of two SUVs, is yet to be given a firm release date. This vehicle, which should be around the same size as the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, was confirmed by Elon Musk as being under development in July 2016.

Model Y will have a fresh platform, Tesla's CEO told the media at an event in June 2017, adding that Fremont does not have the capacity to manufacture it, so it will be built 'elsewhere'. However, Musk then recanted this claim in January 2018. It is now believed that the Model Y will use the same architecture as the Model 3. Which likely means that it will be a taller version of that car with Falcon Wing rear doors.

In August 2017, Elon Musk stated that the company's next vehicle priority was a "semi-truck" (HGV/lorry), as well as a pick-up, and that the Model Y would be available "around 2020". That probably means 2021, 2022 or later.

The Model Y is likely to be the first model for the rumoured factory in Shanghai which Tesla is said to be in negotiations over. The other vehicle of an initial two would be the Model 3.

Model X, which is a 5,037mm long and 1,999mm wide crossover, was revealed to the media as a prototype in February 2012. Eleven months later, it was displayed at the Detroit auto show.

This vehicle is effectively a taller version of the Model S, but with folding back doors hinged on the roof. Tesla calls these 'falcon doors'.

After various dates for the start of production came and went, in November 2014, Tesla announced that the first deliveries would not take place until the third quarter of 2015. The first five production cars were handed over to their owners at an event at Tesla's Bay Area factory in September 2015.

The Model X was the first car to be built on Line 2 at Fremont.

In October 2013, Panasonic identified itself as the supplier of battery cells to the Model S and future Model X. With this agreement, the two companies updated and expanded their 2011 arrangement to the supply of nearly two billion cells over the course of four years.

Panasonic and Tesla developed what their October 2013 statement termed "a next-generation battery cell technology that provides the highest energy density and best performance cells in the market". Panasonic's cylindrical cell is a customised technology designed specifically for optimising electric vehicle quality and life, the company claims.

The Model X was the first car to be built on Line 2 at the Fremont factory. It is also assembled in SKD form at a facility in the Netherlands.

The big crossover has a top speed of 155mph and the so-called 'Ludicrous' variant can accelerate to 60mph in just 3.2 seconds. The standard Model X takes 3.8 seconds. The car's weight is quoted as being 5,441 lbs, which is a hefty 2,468kg.

An even faster P100D variant was announced in August 2016. This has a 100kWh battery pack and a 0-60mph time of just 2.7 seconds. Three months later, the P90D variant was dropped.

Tesla made the seven-seat layout an option in July 2017.

The second generation Model X is due for release in early 2023.

There should be a facelift in late 2019. The second generation Model X is due for release in early 2023.

Pick-up

The tentatively named Model Z (it might have a different name) is to be the "different kind of pick-up truck" which Elon Musk mentioned in an announcement he made on 20 July 2016.

The firm's CEO revealed a sketch of a giant pick-up at the unveiling of two prototypes in November 2017. The prototypes were two examples of a proposed 'Semi' which is to be an electric Class 8 truck and one example of a sports car. The latter was a targa but was called the Tesla Roadster. The sketch of the pick-up showed a vehicle which looked a lot like the Semi but obviously with a load bay. Being carried in this tray was a conventional-looking pick-up along the lines of the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger or VW Amarok.

Given the company's poor track record for releasing vehicles on time plus all the other projects which it claims to have in development, the proposed Model Z pick-up will likely not appear until perhaps 2021 or 2022.

Tesla still has not given any details of where any post-Model 3 vehicles will be manufactured. The Fremont plant in San Francisco's Bay Area will likely reach capacity if the volume of cars which Tesla says it intends to produce there is attained.

Elon Musk tweeted new thoughts on the pick-up in December 2017, stating that it would be larger than a Ford F-150.

Sports car

As noted above, a Roadster replacement is in the planning stages. Elon Musk tweeted in March 2017 that the Model S "will always be the fastest Tesla until next gen Roadster." He added that the latter is still a few years away.

The company said the new sports car would be on sale in 2020.

A prototype of the car was revealed to the media in November 2017 as part of the presentation of the Semi truck prototype. The company said the new sports car would be on sale in 2020.

Tesla says the car will have a top speed of over 400km/h (250mph) and will reach 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, and 0-100 mph in 4.2 seconds. The design of the prototype had a targa roof and was a 2+2.

The company began taking deposits of US$50,000 immediately after the prototype was revealed. The price of the base variant was stated as being US$200,000. A so-called 'Founder's Series' will see 1,000 cars released first, each one priced at US$250,000. For these, the full price must be paid in advance.

The powertrain is claimed to consist of three motors and a 200kWh battery pack, with the range at normal speeds being up to 1,000km or 620 miles. The start of production might slip to 2021 or 2022.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans is available in PLDB from QUBE.

The next OEM to have its divisions' current and future passenger vehicles looked at will be Mahindra & Mahindra.