Tesla Motors is a company that has rattled the cages of the automotive world since their founding in 2003. They’ve had their ups and downs. There have been crashes, fires, near bankruptcy, a death and in the midst of all of this Tesla was able to secure nearly 400,000 preorders for their 4th car, the Model 3. They have pioneered a revolutionary “autopilot” system that successfully propelled occupants of autopilot capable cars for 130 million miles without a death; 130 million miles without a death is about 40 million miles farther than the national average of miles driven in between automotive deaths.
However, most importantly, in my opinion, Tesla has made the electric car cool. They created a fun and exhilarating car that seems to go about everything wrong. Tesla’s initial goal was simple: 1) produce a low volume, high price car that convinces people electric cars can be fun 2) produce a mid volume, mid price car can then 3) fund the production of a high volume, low price car that will change the world.
Things haven’t gone perfectly according to plan, but more closely than I could have ever imagined. Tesla entered the auto world with a beautiful little car based on a Lotus platform called the “Tesla Roadster.” This was their low production, high cost car. Auto Journalists compared it mainly to the Porsche Boxster because of its high price and, inevitably, it lost most of the comparisons. However, it did prove to the drivers of this car that an electric car could be a very fun alternative to gas engines and not all hope was lost for the future. Since then, Tesla has produced the Model S, Model X and is in the process of producing the Model 3. Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, CEO and Product Architect has also promised pick-up trucks, buses and heavy trucks in the near future.
Yet, as of 2016 all of this is rhetoric and uninteresting because Tesla’s most successful car, that just got a face-lift, has just become more powerful. It has been announced that the Tesla Model S will get a 100 kWH battery and with that new addition the Telsa Model S will become the 3rd quickest production car in the world (Losing only to the over $1,000,000 Porsche 918 and Ferrari LaFerrari). This is huge news. The P100D also boasts a 315 mile range per charge which makes it the first production electric car in the world with a range longer than 300 miles. Of course, with realistic driving the range of the car is likely to be closer to 280 miles, but nonetheless it is an impressive accomplishment.
The Model S is what put Tesla on the map. Roughly, 125,000 units have been sold and it has proven to the car world that electric cars are here to stay. Not only has this car proven to be a reliable alternative to a sedan with a combustion engine, it has also proven that an electric car can be a very thrilling drive. With a center of gravity that rivals Ferrari’s (due to the battery pack being placed on the bottom of the car) the Model S is surprisingly nimble for such a heavy car. However, the acceleration of this sedan steals the show. The new P100D, with Ludicrous Mode, has a claimed 0 – 60 of 2.5 seconds. That is ridiculously…no…ludicrously fast and it is mind blowing that a production sedan can create those numbers. What is even more impressive to me is the Tesla Model X equipped with the 100 kWH battery and Ludicrous Mode has a claimed 0 – 60 times of 2.9 seconds. A 5,200-pound SUV will achieve a 0 – 60 seconds in less than 3 seconds. I need to experience that.
While sifting through articles caked with journalists praising Tesla’s success and performance numbers I found something that stuck out even more than the 2.5 0 – 60 time. Any P90D customer (P90D is the Tesla Model S or X with a 90 kWH battery) that is awaiting the arrival of their car can pay Tesla just $10,000 for the new larger battery pack. Anyone in possession of a P90D can pay Tesla $20,000 for the larger battery. While these numbers aren’t cheap I can’t help but think what this means for the resale value of any Tesla product and how this will impact the sale of used cars from this company.
Any Tesla will hold it’s value relatively well. Nearly as well as you would expect from a car with a combustion engine that had a starting price of around $100,000. The real reason they don’t hold their value exceptionally well is because of a market that does not yet trust the longevity of the battery packs that hold all of the power for any Tesla.
Frankly, I don’t blame customers for this. The batteries will intrinsically lose the ability to hold a charge over time and will eventually be noticeably less effective. However, now that there is a relatively low cost option to replace a battery pack will the market change? I don’t think it will…yet. The only fiscally viable swap currently available for a battery pack directly from the Tesla factory is between a car equipped with a 90 kWH and a car equipped with a 100 kWH battery. All other swaps, if possible, I believe would be a waste of money because of the rate at which Tesla continues to innovate and grow.
Swapping, for example, your original 65 kWH battery with the new 100 kWH battery would definitely make sense for resale value, but this would not be possible for the Tesla advertised $20,000. The sophistication of the Tesla cooling systems for the batteries has changed immensely and this has greatly impacted the way these cars have been engineered. Unfortunately, for the second hand market there is not an easy way to boost the resale value of your car by an exorbitant amount…as of now.
In the future, I’m not sure. I look forward to seeing what happens. With Tesla’s “green” nature I would not be surprised if they offer to buy back used cars, reusing the body, changing the battery system and reselling the cars at a profit. Could be an interesting idea…maybe I’ll call Elon.