Unless you’ve been pickled in The Walking Dead reruns for the past 24 hours, you are probably aware that Elon Musk, co-founder of the US electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors, hosted a media roundtable on Thursday to let loose with yet another big announcement regarding the company’s Supercharger EV charging station network, which provides owners of the Model S sedan with free fast-charging services. Boy are we glad CleanTechnica got a seat at the table, because we got a chance to ask the one thing we are dying to know: what’s the next Tesla model to roll off the assembly line gonna look like?
The New Tesla Supercharger Announcement
Okay, so we admit up front that the Tesla Supercharger announcement was pretty big news — a dramatic, rapid expansion of the free, fast-charging network — but for regular readers of CleanTechnica (and our sister site Gas2.org), the gist of the technology is probably old hat by now, including the zombie apocalypse survival advantages.
If you’re trying to figure out where the zombies come in, one highlight of the roundtable occurred when Musk mentioned the actual and current potential for integrating onsite renewable energy harvesting and storage at Supercharger stations, which all things being equal would enable you to get a fix for your Tesla Model S even if zombies take over everything and the grid goes down.
Musk is obviously not alone in his anticipation of a zombie apocalypse, because exactly such a solar-powered EV charging system with onsite energy storage was introduced back in February at an Indiana shopping mall by a trio of heavy hitters: Simon Property Group, Duke Energy, and Toshiba. The idea is that anybody using that station can be sure of getting a 100% solar-powered charge, even on a cloudy day.
Let us also note for the record that a suburban shopping mall is the perfect location for a zombie apocalypse-hardy EV charging station, as anyone who has seen the original George Romero film Dawn of the Dead can attest. (Disclaimer: yes, the Monroeville Mall was a huge deal if you grew up in Pittsburgh, even before the zombies took it over. I was there. I know. And you know what, in terms of shopping, there is no contest between your local mall and your local prison).
Tesla Motors And EV Affordability
Speaking of shopping, whenever the zombie apocalypse hits, you sure better get dibs on the coolest car around (okay, so motorcycle if you’re that cool), and affordability is not an obstacle if there is nothing standing between you and that spanking new Model S but a herd of hungry zombies.
However, until that day comes about, affordability is an obstacle, and that’s where things start to get interesting.
Previously during the roundtable, Musk had emphasized that the Tesla Motors goal was to provide its customers with “total freedom of travel,” with the free Supercharger network providing a “sense of freedom” and “the ability to go almost anywhere.” He also reminisced at length about a road trip he took 20 years ago, from Los Angeles to New York City with plenty of room to ramble between the Grand Canyon to Chicago and other points of interest.
Put all that together and you come up with a charging network built around the free-to-travel lifestyle of someone who is not tied down by a full time job or family responsibilities, say if you were still in school or you were a hippie or whatever, but it’s paired with a car that requires you to have a career and be bringing in the big bucks.
So, is Tesla Motors looking to build a car that’s more of a mashup between the Supercharger lifestyle and EV ownership? A reporter from Autoweek Magazine got into the subject by asking how Tesla Motors plans to reach the mass market, and Musk’s reply included tackling the Tesla affordability issue with a new model due out somewhere around 2017, which while by no means cut-rate should come in at about half the cost of a Model S. (He also emphasized that the nationwide, free Supercharger was a critical part of that.)
But What’s It Gonna Look Like?
Relatedly, we wanted to know Tesla’s plans for styling an affordable EV around the Supercharger lifestyle — maybe not going so far as a hand-painted school bus, but something a little more expressive of youth and freedom (case in point: Google’s advertising algorithm has decided that this article goes nicely with a pitch for AARP).
However, although the car might include some unique features, don’t expect a significant departure from the Model S. According to Musk, the forthcoming “affordable” model will be based on the Model S platform and styling, only smaller.
Phooey. But, in answer to our question, Musk did bring up an important point about designing an affordable car. Yes, one factor is to build less car, but the manufacturing process itself also plays a decisive role in determining the sticker price.
Musk alluded to a more affordable model that would be “easier to manufacture,” which could mean any number of things given that US industry has been transitioning to new high-tech manufacturing platforms, including advanced robotics, 3-D printing, and self-assembling materials.
If you have any guesses for what the Tesla Motors assembly line of the future could look like, feel free to drop a comment in the thread.
Oh, and did we mention to stay tuned for another big Tesla Motors announcement on June 20?
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