With the construction of a new net-zero-energy ‘gigafactory’ scheduled for completion in 2017, Tesla is now reinventing the design of its electric cars and setting out to change the face of the automobile market as well.
Last week Tesla invited the technology press to an event in Los Angeles where the company unveiled the new ‘dual motor’ version of its model ‘S’ electric car, which will much more powerful than the one currently on the market.
Elon Musk had teased electric car buffs ahead of the unveiling event with a cryptic tweet that it was now time to announce the dual motor – designated ‘D’ – model, plus ‘something else’.
In addition to the new features of the ‘all wheel drive’ (i.e. separate front and rear drive – hence dual motor) model, Musk is aiming to revolutionise the automobile world with a series of projects that the company currently has on the stocks.
Tesla has already promised to bring out a car that can be driven on what it calls ‘auto-pilot’ – i.e. not a self-driving vehicle as such but one that includes a number of autonomous safety features – 90% of the time. In fact as of two weeks prior to the announcement, all Tesla model S cars rolled out have included the auto-pilot capability. Nevertheless, the new S and D vehicles will face fierce competition. Google’s self-driving car is technologically the most advanced in this field, while traditional carmakers such as Chrysler and Ford are making new investments in Michigan, the original home of automobile manufacturing.
However, Musk intends to make Tesla cars – which up to now have been designed for an exclusive niche market – affordable to the general public. Having made his entry into the car market, he is planning to go all the way and make his electric cars available to everyone. To help achieve this aim, Tesla is about to build a huge factory in Nevada to produce batteries for its electric cars, Construction of the ‘gigafactory’ is scheduled to start soon and from 2020 it should be making enough batteries annually to power 500,000 Tesla cars. It will be a ‘net zero energy plant’, powered by solar and wind energy, bringing production costs down by some 30% in a bid to bring the vehicle ticket price within the range of average customers.
The Nevada factory will employ around 6,500 people. Construction and fitting out will cost Tesla an estimated $2 billion, but Musk believes the plant will help the firm – which is already valued at $28 billion – to grasp lucrative market opportunities.