On its Q3 2019 earnings call, Tesla announced that it would be increasing the range of its Standard Range Plus Model 3 from 240 to 250 miles per charge via a soon-to-be-released software update. According to Tesla, the company was able to achieve the increase with “more efficient energy use rather than a costly increase to the battery size.”
The increase comes as just the latest in a long line of performance, range, feature, and comfort improvements Tesla continues to develop for both its new vehicles and vehicles it has already sold. At the same time, Tesla continues adding longer range battery configurations to its vehicles over time. Compared to the competition, Tesla’s Long Range vehicles offer 20–40% more range per charge.
That’s a meaningful delta that resonates doubly when you consider that Tesla is the only automotive major that has cracked the code on building long range, affordable, profitable electric vehicles at scale. Profitable is the key there, as existing OEMs are being forced to invest in electric vehicle R&D and build new manufacturing capability at the same time as their existing internal combustion engine vehicle sales erode away from under them, and they aren’t yet benefiting from the kinds of economies of scale Tesla is achieving with the Model 3, and presumably soon Model Y.
Even that isn’t a broad enough picture for this industry. It’s not just a function of Tesla consuming market share at insane rates or electric vehicles displacing gas/diesel vehicles on what is approaching a disruptive scale. Rather, it is also a function of a generational transition that has millennials waiting longer to purchase vehicles, moving to city centers where functional transit is a real option, and using other forms of transit to get around.
Managing partner and head of global tech research of at New Street Research Pierre Ferragu told CNBC that, “Any other car manufacturer will tell you ‘electric is not profitable yet.’ That’s where they’re onto something.”
Tesla has demonstrated that it has perfected the magic recipe of battery chemistry, battery partnerships, scale, and technology to change that paradigm.
Looking forward, there really isn’t a whole lot in the automotive pipeline in terms of electric vehicles from other OEMs that will compete with Tesla. The Porsche Taycan charged into the space, intent on being the “Tesla killer” the mainstream media has waited so long for, but when pricing, range, and performance were announced, they underwhelmed with a higher price tag than teased for so many months ahead of its official launch and less performance or range for the money.
Looking out at what’s available today and coming down the pipe, Ferragu said, “Nothing is matching the 2012 Tesla Model S and the Model S of Tesla today is actually 40% better than 7 years ago. That’s how Tesla turned from being a disruptive innovator 7 years ago to an industry leader. They have 7 years of experience others don’t have and I don’t think anyone is close to that.”
At the given price, the range of the Taycan left many potential buyers in want of another hundred miles of range per charge, even though the performance was impressive — so impressive that it sent Tesla back to the drawing board to bring an all new ultra-performance version of the Model S into being, dubbed the Plaid version. It’s important to emphasize: The Taycan is a brilliant electric vehicle and there are many like it coming down the pipe from manufacturers like Rivian, Bollinger, Byton, and more, but they all hit the same sticking points when it comes time to show their cards. Those sticking points are that it is really hard to build an electric vehicle at scale that is affordable, profitable, and at the same time has enough range for consumers accustomed to buying internal combustion vehicles.
Tesla has created a sustainable three-pronged business that is hell bent on bringing sustainable automobiles, solar panels, and energy storage to the masses, and even though it has been 15 years in the making, by all appearances, this is just getting started.