The newest member of the Tesla family stepped into the limelight last week at an event at Tesla’s Hawthorne Design Studio in Southern California. The event was attended by several hundred enthusiasts, referral program award winners, and media who came out from around the world to see the big reveal.
Tesla’s new fully electric compact utility vehicle (CUV) was built on top of Tesla’s Model 3 platform, with which it shares 76% of its parts, allowing Tesla to streamline parts sourcing and much of Tesla’s internal manufacturing process for the two vehicles. Tesla’s decision to reuse the lessons it learned, the capital it spent, and the tears that were shed to bring the Model 3 to market to tap into a completely new segment of the market has been widely considered wise and mature, perhaps even a step into adulthood for the company, which is currently almost 16 years old and will thus be 18 in 2021.
The base configuration of the Model Y seats 5 passengers, with an optional jump seat ($3,000) in the back that seats another 2 adults. If you’re in the mood for something more utilitarian, the second and third row of seats can be folded down flat to maximize its hauling capacity. With 66 cubic feet of storage space, the Model Y packs a significant amount of utility into its compact footprint.
Range & Performance Options
The Model Y is expected to come to market in the fall of 2020, with several different flavors rolling out through the end of the year and 2021, mostly varying range and performance. The Model Y will be offered with the same Standard Range battery as the Model 3, which will have an EPA-rated range of 230 miles per charge and a 0–60 mph time of 5.9 seconds. This base configuration of the Model Y is $39,000, which puts it squarely in the middle of the price range of the Hyundai Kona EV, as well as numerous combustion-powered mid-sized luxury SUVs. Deliveries of the Standard Range Model Y will start in the Spring of 2021.
Much like it did with the Model 3, Tesla will first bring the higher end trims of the Model Y to market, starting with the Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) Long Range build. That will start at $47,000 and will provide 300 miles (480 kilometers) of range per charge. Unsurprisingly, no mention is made of a mid-range battery option for the Model Y, which was only intended to be a limited release when it was first launched for the Model 3 and was just recently dropped from the Model 3 design studio.
The shared lineage with the Model 3 is clear in the flavor mix for the Y, with the All-Wheel Drive (AWD) Long Range build coming in at $51,000. Adding in the second motor slashes the 0–60 mph time down to 4.5 seconds, but at a cost of lower range. The AWD still manages to deliver an impressive 280 miles (450 kilometers) of EPA-rated range per charge, but don’t expect that if you’re pounding the pedal to the metal at every green light.
In true Tesla style, the Model Y also comes in a $60,000 Performance configuration that will put your consciousness in jeopardy as it silently screams from 0–60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. The upgrade also earns buyers the package formerly known as the Performance Upgrade Package that includes:
- 20’’ Performance Wheels
- Performance Brakes
- Carbon fiber spoiler
- Lowered suspension
- Aluminum alloy pedal
- Track Mode
The Tesla Model Y is noteworthy first and foremost because Tesla managed to provide an option for seating 7 in a vehicle that isn’t much larger than the Tesla Model 3. The 7-seat option will not be available at launch, but it will be made available in 2021 some months after the initial launch of the Model Y. In its default configuration as a 5-seater, the Tesla Model Y is an extremely full-functioned vehicle, with all three of the rear seats folding individually for maximum flexibility.
In our test ride of the Model Y, the one thing that stood out the most was the panoramic glass roof, even though it was at night. The glass roof in the Model Y is different from the Model 3, as it does not have a center brace that runs across it. Instead, it borrows from the single pane of glass design from the Tesla Model S. The result is an open feel to the cabin that is unlike any other car that I have ridden or driven in. I have not driven a Model S with the newer glass roof, but I would guess that the Model Y slots into the same category.
The Model Y packs the same physical seats as the Model 3, but they are mounted slightly higher than the Model 3. That’s a common tactic with CUVs, which have higher rooflines than the cars they are based on. The Y is no exception here. The elevated seat positions allow Tesla to cram in two tiny folding seats at the rear of the vehicle beneath the hatch. They’re not something I would relish folding my 6 foot 2 inch body into, but they would probably be more than sufficient for two smaller sized humans. Having said that, there aren’t third row seats that I am actually comfortable in.
On the outside, the roofline of the Model Y goes up a few inches higher than the Model 3. That gives it extra roof for the additional passengers, but also more room for cargo. That fact is accentuated by the hatchback and the folding seats that fold down flat to allow for maximum utility and flexibility.
Aside from the higher roofline, the exterior of the Model Y has a very similar look to the Model 3, with a nose that’s betrays their shared bloodlines. Taking it in from afar, it looks a lot like its shorter sibling, with the large frontend being the only giveaway that Tesla snuck a few extra inches of ground clearance into the design.
The Model Y comes from the factory with another exterior feature that makes it stand out from the Model 3 — chrome delete. It was one of the things that Model 3 owners clamored for upon taking delivery of their vehicles as a way to stand out from the crowds of Model 3s. Now that it comes standard on the Model Y, I’m personally suspecting that a full vinyl chrome package is in the works, because that’s how people seem to roll.
One of the significant improvements the Model Y brings to bear on the market is safety. All three of the vehicles that Tesla currently has in production lead their respective classes in safety and Tesla expects the same from the Model Y. Actually, the 3, S, and X lead all other vehicles in the US in terms of probability of injury in a crash. Foundational to the safety of Tesla’s vehicles is the skateboard battery pack that puts the heaviest part of the vehicle in the lowest position possible. That not only keeps the vehicle anchored to the ground for better cornering and handling, but also serves to minimize the chances of the vehicle flipping in an accident.
Tesla didn’t just design and build a safe vehicle, it also brought its software skills to bear on the problem with a suite of industry-leading active safety features that complement the physical safety of the vehicle. A suite of sensors including front, side, and rear cameras; 525 foot (160 meter) forward-facing radar; and 12 ultrasonic sensors that provide close-proximity data that allow the vehicle’s systems to accurately see around the vehicle and respond appropriately before the driver could possibly respond.
Those sensors also form the foundation for Tesla’s Autopilot and Full-Self Driving solutions. These add-ons come at a premium price — $8,000 for the pair at the time of vehicle purchase or $11,000 after purchasing the vehicle — but they take safety of the vehicle to the next level. Tesla has estimated that its vehicles are 4 times safer than the average vehicle in the United States and 7 times safer than average when the Enhanced Autopilot solution is engaged.
Tesla is not shy about its ambitions when it comes to safety, stating on its website that, “Model Y is designed to be the safest mid-size SUV. Built from the ground up as an electric vehicle, the low center of gravity, rigid body structure and large crumple zones provide unparalleled protection.”
The large crumple zones Tesla built into the Model Y are a distinct advantage over combustion vehicles, as Tesla does not have to put large motors in front of the driver. Most combustion vehicles, on the other hand, use this area for the motor, which, when hit in an accident, slams directly back towards the driver and the other passengers in the vehicle.
The Model Y also sets new records for efficiency in its class, thanks to Tesla’s obsessive attention to detail that resulted in a stupidly aerodynamic design. The CUV sports a 0.23 coefficient of drag. In practical terms, that means that it squeezes more range out of the same battery. Not having to carry around more batteries to go farther helps the case even further by keeping the weight of the vehicle down, creating a virtuous circle.
This efficiency stacks on top of Tesla’s best-in-class battery pricing, giving it a big competitive advantage over the competition. The chart below lays out the facts rather clearly, with the Tesla Model Y having the lowest price, the most range, the highest efficiency, the fastest 0–60 time, and the lowest cost per kilowatt-hour of storage.
That is a crazy advantage, without even taking into account the fact that the Model Y also boasts the fastest, largest DC fast charging network — which Tesla just made even faster with the announcement of its all-new V3 Supercharging, which can push 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of range into the car per hour. Even Tesla’s V2 Superchargers saw some love, with an upgrade to 145 kilowatt charging speeds when a single car is connected to a charging pair.
The ability to add Autopilot and Full-Self Driving capabilities to the car serve as the cherry on top. The question is no longer ‘How will Tesla survive?’ but instead, ‘How will anyone else catch up to Tesla in any of these areas?’ Tesla has a 3-5 year lead on the competition in battery production capacity. Having battery production capacity built up internally or contracted externally has proven to be a show-stopper for many a mainstream automotive company’s EV program. Tesla opting to built up its capacity internally with its partner Panasonic was a brilliant move that many thought was crazy when the Gigafactory was first announced.
Tesla opened up the vehicle configurator for orders of the Model Y immediately after the reveal event, allowing buyers to fully spec out a Model Y and pay a refundable $2,500 deposit. That is a different tactic than the company took with the Model 3, where potential buyers put down a $1,000 refundable deposit for a place in line to configure and purchase a vehicle.
The reservation process for the Model 3 left many potential buyers feeling frustrated over time as they waited and waited for the $35,000 Model 3 that ultimately took nearly 3 years to be released. This new approach is an improvement on the old system, as it puts buyers directly in line with a vehicle that will be available at launch, while still offering the freedom of a refundable deposit. Internally, letting buyers fully configure the vehicle this early on gives Tesla visibility into not just potential demand, but real demand from real customers that it can proactively ramp up its production lines for. This makes a lot more sense.
Tesla expects to kick off production of higher trimmed Model Y vehicles late next year for deliveries in North America and in early 2021 for customers in Europe and China. Much like they did with the Model 3, Tesla will follow with production of the Standard Range, standard interior configuration in early 2021 for North America and in early 2022 for European and Chinese customers.
Customers can go online today and order one in all of North America, China, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, and Spain. Additional countries will follow as Tesla continues the march towards global domination of the electric vehicle market.