Clean Transport

Published on July 3rd, 2014 | by Christopher DeMorro


Affordable Tesla Will Be Built Mostly Of Steel, Priced “Realistically”

July 3rd, 2014 by  

2014 Tesla Model S

Originally posted on Gas2

Elon Musk has said time and again that Tesla is building a BMW 3-series rival with 200 miles of range priced around $35,000. To keep costs down, the car formerly known Tesla Model E will be made mostly from steel, and priced realistically compared to established rivals, it was revealed in a recent interview with AutoCar.

Speaking to the British car magazine about the Model E, former Aston Martin executive and current Tesla VP of engineering Chris Porritt said that:

“I expect there will be very little carry-over. We’ve got to be cost-effective. We can’t use aluminium for all the components.”

In other words, the Model E won’t be riding on the same platform as the Model S and Model X. Instead, the Model E will get an all-new steel body that will be about 20% smaller than the Model S, so even though it will use heavier steel for most of the chassis, it could still end up being lighter. Also, there’s still the likelihood that the Model E will get a few aluminum components to cut down on weight, such as the hood or trunk lid. Making the Model E from mostly steel will certainly make it cheaper, but just how cheap remains an issue of intense debate and analysis though.

Another factor is the that battery prices continue to drop, and Musk’s proposed battery Gigafactory could reduce battery costs another 30%, making the Model E cost effective and more importantly, profitable. Still, the final price remains to be set, as we aren’t likely to get our first peek of the Model E until next year at the soonest. Musk has said time and again his goal is to get the cost down around $35,000, though whether or not that factors in tax credits, only Elon knows. Porritt says that the Model E will be priced “realistically” compared to more established rivals like the BMW 3-series and Audi A4 though, so the Model E could come in closer to $30,000.

Wouldn’t that be something?


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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • RayGun

    The answer is easy. Elon needs to build his own giga-aluminum factory and make his own AL. They already know how to manufacture an aluminum car so no learning curve on the model E. Salt will kill a steel car, see my 2003 Trailblazer.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    This is no problem. Gen III Tesla will have hundred times more buyers than Tesla has production capacity! Estimated demand for III gen car is about 10 million cars. And Tesla can be satisfied if they can produce 100 000 gen III cars in 2017.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    There is also possibility with carbon fiber as BMW already demonstrated the feasibility of carbon fiber in mass production. But for this Tesla will need yet another gigafactory for carbon fiber production, so it probably won’t be ready for gen III car.

    The cost of carbon fiber is mostly in electricity bill, therefore carbon fiber is the probable winner as near future material of choice for affordable electric car. This is because when PV solar becomes dominant form of electricity generation, there will be lots of surplus capacity for electricity and carbon fiber production can efficiently utilize this very cheap surplus solar power.

  • CaptD

    I’d like a stainless steel body that does not need to be painted and/or to be washed very often which would also make it far more greener to maintain!

    I’d suggest that they aim at $27,500 which would make all Tesla’s competitors quake in their boots…


    • Jouni Valkonen

      Stainless steel is not significantly cheaper than aluminium.

      $27 500 is too cheap car. $50 000 is more probable target, because the aim of Gen III car is that it must surpass the best Audi A4 Quatro in every possible way and demonstrate that ICE cars has no match for electric cars.

      The point of gen III car is not to make affordable car, but it must be the best car that has ever seen on Earth. Even better than today’s Model S.

      • Rick Kuda

        So they’re gonna cancel Model S production after the gen3 car? Lol, I think you’re smokin’ somethin’! Model S and X will still be the luxury sedan and SUV, top of the line Tesla models. And Model S has already proven the superiority of electric cars! Gen3 will be a compromise, mostly on range, with the whole point being an affordable car for the average consumer.

        • CaptD

          Tesla’s will be in demand for DECADES since they can be “upgraded” via software and new more powerful batteries.

          BTW: I’d love an electric 1969-ish “Lotus 7” two seater for round town fun.

          One flavor with just side curtains (no doors) and a conv. top and the other flavor, no top or side curtains, just a tonneau cover….

      • CaptD

        Please post a link that backs up what you are saying about Gen III.


  • If they make it out of *stainless* steel then it can be lighter – because they do not have to account for weakening as it rusts.

    They can also not paint it, which will save 40-50 pounds or so.

    they fill the hollow pieces with foam, it A) greatly increases the
    strength of the chassis, and B) it adds thermal insulation which will
    save a lot of energy that would otherwise be needed to heat and cool the
    inside of the car.

    If they narrow the rear track, the sides of
    the car can be tapered, and this will improve the Cd a lot. Getting as
    much out of the battery pack requires low aerodynamic drag, first and
    foremost. And it requires free-wheel coasting by default, with driver
    controlled regen *when needed*.

    At 30MPH, 50% of the load on the
    drivetrain is coming from aero drag. At 55MPH is is about 75%. Lower the
    drag and you lower the consumption of electricity – by a lot. If the
    Leaf had as low a Cd as the EV1, it would already be able to go 120-140

    Low drag means less expensive battery packs take you farther.

    heated defrosters are coming (Mercedes B-Class Electric and VW eGolf)
    and heat pumps, and heated seats, etc. Thermal insulation (Mercedes) will
    also pay dividends, and reduce the energy required to heat and cool the
    inside of the car.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      The problem with stainless steel is that it is expensive and therefore all advantages compared to aluminium are lost.

      • Maybe, but it takes less stainless to build a car, because it does not need to be over-engineered to account for rust, and not painting it saves on cost as well.

        • CaptD

          and Stainless Steel also develops a patina that is very cool as it ages…

      • Dallas

        The only advantage SS has over aluminum is chemical resistance and even that is depending on specific application (you could try to argue thinner walls for parts?)

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