We wonder at the possibilities a 400 mile Tesla Roadster upgrade will offer. Tesla’s Elon Musk suggested we would have good news about the Tesla Roadster on its last earnings call, and it definitely is news to smile about.
A 400 mile Tesla Roadster
Putting the Tesla Roadster in context is important in order to understand where electric vehicles (EV) have been and are going. Yes, the Roadster was expensive at about $100,000, but did it ever thumb its nose at carmakers saying there was no future in EVs. Tesla made three key strategic decisions early on, as I wrote in Teslarati: own your production; use commodity, proven technology; and especially, surround yourself with intelligent core investors who understand battery technology is a long term profit. With that in mind, is it any wonder why Tesla stocks continue to defy logic while the market flat lines? After all, isn’t Tesla financially profitable?
A 400 mile Tesla Roadster upgrade is what Elon Musk is promising us, on top of a soon-to-hit the market Model X, the media-blockbuster Gigafactory, and the Model III (three years away from now). All of this is happening as Tesla continues to develop its international Supercharger network and the emerging Chinese market. A 400 mile Tesla Roadster upgrade is a serious step up performance from the original Roadster. If you recall, the Tesla Roadster is already five years old and already packed a hefty 53 kWh battery with a spectacular 240 mile range. Tesla Motors is on the leading edge of commodity lithium-ion battery development using Panasonic’s 18560 cylindrical format. It also packs a lot more energy density than most EVs on the market. This explains why the much heavier Model S sedan has a 280 mile range with its 85 kW pack. A 400 mile Tesla Roadster would mean being able to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco without stopping.
A 400 mile Tesla Roadster means a bigger pack
In order for the company to give us a 400 mile Tesla Roadster, CleanTechnica estimates the battery pack to be close to the current top of the line Model X. If the original Roadster packed Panasonic’s 18650 cells rated at 3.7 V and 2,100 mAh, the Model S uses the upgraded 3,100 mAh/3.6V cells. The difference in energy density would be substantial, going from 117 Wh/kg for the original Roadster to 240 Wh/kg for the Model S. Why not put that into the Roadster?
For the cynics out there, the upgrade is not because the original battery pack isn’t performing well. Tesla Motors found that the original battery pack has performed better than anticipated, with 100,000 miles Roadsters keeping about 85% of its capacity.
400 mile Tesla Roadster comes at a price
Although Luis Gonzales on the CleanTechnica article believes this would add an extra $45,000 to the refurbished $80,000 Roadster, we believe the upgrade should be much less. In a recent interview, JB Straussel told us that the Model S battery pack costs much less than estimated. In fact, he said it was even less than half, and hinted at about a quarter. If we use these numbers, then the average price of an upgraded Tesla Roadster would be around $100,000. Yes, that’s still a lot of money, but like Apple, the upgraded version costs the same as the model it replaces and packs almost twice as much range.
The implication of a 400 mile Tesla Roadster upgrade is tremendous. First, it disrupts the hydrogen fuel cell with a 400 miles EV. Second, Tesla is the life of a product it no longer sells, squeezing more profits. Finally, it maximizes the Gigafactory’s production estimates by bringing down the cost of batteries for the Model III down to $35,000. No matter how you look at it, a 400 mile Roadster upgrade shows again how Elon Musk has a highly disruptive business model with Tesla Motors.