For those of you who’ve followed me over the years here at CleanTechnica, you know I’m a bit of a snowbird — I head north from the balmy southern US up to New England for July and August to visit with family and longtime friends. While in the north country, I retrieve my 2013 Honda Civic Si from its storage barn and tour around in it for a couple of months. As the car ages, my knees rebel over shifting a 6-speed, and the guilt over driving an ICE vehicle rises, the idea of buying a new but relatively low-priced EV keeps popping in my head. Man, if a $25,000 Tesla Model C was available for purchase right now, I’d be placing my order. Definitely.
How about you? Would a Model C in your parking space make you happy? 🙂
During May at the 2023 Annual Shareholder Meeting, Musk teased a future Tesla model that would be compact and modestly priced. Musk described the future Tesla catalog as having “two new products that I think you will be very excited about.” Without adding details, he did say that the design and manufacturing techniques of those products are “head and shoulders above anything else in the industry.” The new affordable model, he said, could be part of more than five million units a year additionally that the company would manufacture.
Call it what you will — the Tesla Model C, or 2, or Q — but such an affordable Tesla EV would create a whole lot of enthusiasm and could very likely propel mass acceptance of all-electric personal transportation. As our own CleanTechnica chief editor Zachary Shahan put it, “Tesla has done one thing really well for more than a decade — brought the excitement.”
Backstories about the Tesla Model C
While it’s unlikely you’ll see this new car on the road before 2025, it’s fun to mull over and imagine. Perhaps the Model C will be known as a compact city electric. This new Tesla will probably only use one electric motor to keep its pricing competitive.
It would clearly be the most affordable Tesla — and easier on the wallet than most other new vehicles: Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director who analyzes the habits and transactions of car consumers, wondered recently to the Guardian, “Just talking with my team in the genesis of our research, I was like, ‘Can you even buy anything new for $20,000?’”
Overall, the segment of $20,000 or less vehicles has shrunk to 0.3% from 8% just 5 years ago. The $20,000 used vehicle is becoming harder for car shoppers to find, and the market of new vehicles priced under $30,000 has diminished to 17% from 44% over that same span. The popular Model 3 trim sells for $40,240. The Model Y is the next step up with the price tag of $47,490. The Tesla Model S starts at $88,490, while the cheapest Model X comes in at $98,490. According to the latest data from Edmunds, the average transaction price for a new vehicle was $47,713; that’s a third more than what Americans paid 5 years ago.
A Tesla Model C at $25,000 for basic trim would be much more economical than any other Tesla — and a whole lot of other cars in the US, too.
Is the production of a Model C viable? Due to innovative new manufacturing processes and electronic components, the Model C could be manufactured for nearly 50% less than the Model 3 and Model Y. The new platform design will focus on ease of building. According to a Tesla Engineering HQ video, teams of people and robots will work on fully assembling separate parts of the car and marrying them all together at the end in one go, meaning the whole car is only fully built once. Musk claims that this new process should yield a 30% improvement in time, space, and efficiency.
Engineering HQ Opening https://t.co/qyA5CpQvc9
— Tesla (@Tesla) February 23, 2023
The Model C will be a small SUV: We used to call them “cute utes.” Global car markets did not have a good year in 2022, but SUVs were an exception. People love their SUVs! Supposedly, a Model C design leaked from the Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai in January and appeared on Chinese platforms. Indications were that the design was a lot like an abbreviated, lowered, and consolidated Tesla Model Y with a shorter wheelbase.
What other automakers would offer a comparable model? The Model C will be in a similar market to the Hyundai Kona Electric, Mazda MX-30, or Nissan Leaf. Maybe a VW ID.2 will be released to add some competitive thrills to the low-priced EV auto scene.
A Tesla Model C would be driven more than other EVs: Teslas are the most-driven electric cars on the road today, according to data from the car shopping site iSeeCars.com. The Tesla Model X topped the list with an average of 10,378 miles driven per year. The Model Y was next, with an average of 10,199 miles driven per year, followed by the Model 3 with 9,960 miles, and the Model S with 9,340 miles. On average, drivers travel 13,476 miles per year on US roads, according to the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) — though, this is old data, pre-Covid. The Model C would likely be driven more miles, however, based on the average annual miles per age group of people 20-54, who would be the likely audience for the Model C. Their average mileage is around 18,000.
Where would the Tesla Model C be manufactured? Tom Zhu, head of North American operations, said that Tesla had shared the ultimate goal of the Tesla China R&D center on many public occasions. He suggested models made at that site will be global, rather than regional Teslas. “The ultimate goal has been mentioned on many occasions. In the future, we want to design, develop, and produce an original model in China,” Zhu said. “It is manufactured here and sold to the world. This R&D center is the starting point of the goal. We have mentioned before that we hope the vehicle built in China can have 100% local components.”
What features would the Model C celebrate? To appeal to a primarily young and energetic clientele, the Model C would have an infotainment system similar to the Model Y to offer connectivity and entertainment options.
With the extensive trial and error that went into current platforms for the Models S, X, 3, Y, Cybertruck, and Semi, Tesla has a significant amount of up-to-date background knowledge to apply to the production of an affordable Model C. The all-electric car company would offer the new lower-priced model to achieve the goal of electrifying the world, providing a more affordable, sustainable, and greener way of life to everyone. It will be one more notch in the integration of a company that prides itself on creating a circular design.
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