Tesla’s Model X debuted

by Ernie Hernandez on February 11, 2012

Tesla Model X

Tesla’s all wheel drive electric crossover

Tesla revealed the all new rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive Model X electric crossover to the public at a customer event held at their Los Angeles Design and Engineering Center. Bold not only for its means of propulsion, but also its gullwing-style rear doors, Model X is based on the Tesla Vehicle Platform, which is also the basis for its Model S sedan. Room for seven adults and all-wheel-drive are the prime differentiators from that vehicle. You may see a video of the reveal here.

Watching the reveal, we were mostly impressed with the spacious cargo area behind the rear seat. Generally, in a three-row vehicle that is not a minivan or a full-sized SUV, cargo area behind the third row is skimpy at best. That we were impressed by this reveals how our needs have changed as our family has grown over the years. As capacious as the rear cargo area is, the rear-wheel-drive model offers an additional cargo area up front, as there is no front motor taking up that space. Yes, it is a dual motor all-wheel-drive system with the rear-wheel-drive motor tucked in under the rear cargo area. Very impressive. The gullwing style doors might be impactful initially, but their slow operation will be less appealing on windy and rainy or snowy days. Too, no matter the marketing spin that they put on rear seat access, as seen in the video, climbing into the rear seat is still cumbersome.

Being based on the Tesla Vehicle Platform, one would expect similar performance to the Model S sedan. According to a conversation that CEO Elon Musk had with the New York Times, the Model X weighs more than the sedan so range will be about ten percent less. This could be why the Model X will only be offered with the two larger (60- or 85-kilowatt hour) battery packs available on the Model S. Also, when loaded with seven passengers and their luggage, range will diminish quickly. All of Tesla’s range estimates on their web site refer to the range when driven at 55 miles per hour. We know of no one on earth that drives 55 miles per hour. Interestingly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers no mileage estimate for the Tesla Roadster (the only Tesla model sold to date), as they do for the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i.

Mr. Musk said that the price would be similar to that of the Model S. We have to think that his reference applies to the rear-wheel-drive version. Adding an additional motor to the all-wheel-drive model adds cost, so that additional cost will need to be incorporated into the price of the vehicle. This would place the starting price of the rear-wheel-drive Model X at roughly $67,000. The all-wheel-drive Model X Signature Performance model will surely come in at $100,000 plus, as the Model S currently approaches that price point.

In the New York Times article, Musk says β€œThis will be our most important, and highest-volume car, when it comes out.” At prices ranging from roughly $70,000 to $100,000 while this may be Tesla’s “volume” car, we don’t see it being a high volume car by any stretch of the imagination.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sasparilla February 13, 2012 at 8:51 am

An absolutely beautiful car (as is the model S).

We can see where the price point needs to be (with existing battery technology) to have no compromise EV’s. That is, EV vehicles with better performance than most ICE vehicles in its class, better usability for passengers / storage and range of 200 to 300 miles (close to equivalent ICE range) where you don’t have to charge up every night (& don’t have to cycle the pack every day either which gives long term benefits for capacity life of the pack).

This is where we want to get to with consumer level EV’s (no compromise vehicle at equivalent ICE pice points), but looks like it’ll be a good while (I’d guess generation 3 at the earliest before we get there – based on battery technology – which would be around the end of the decade before we get there with Leaf or Volt class vehicles).

Of course we don’t want to take Tesla’s volume comments out of context. Tesla is saying their highest volume vehicle (not a high volume vehicle). Tesla’s target market for the S and X is the higher end BMW and Mercedes folks and with no compromise vehicles like these, I could see them selling a good amount in relation to the size of that market. I hope they can do it profitably and do well as a company (scary thinking about how tough it is to start a new auto company).

Something worth noting about the Roadster is that is almost certainly responsible for the Volt happening and possibly the Leaf as well (showing execs at these companies that a commercial EV could be done, with both the Leaf and Volt coming out about the same number of years after the Roadster was created – and it being known the Roadster pushed GM execs to go forward with the Volt).

Tesla has always had a roadmap for where they want to get to (which is a true mass market EV – to change the world…as they say) and at this point they call that the Nina (I believe) and, supposedly, it will be the next vehicle they will design and produce after the Model X (above) – probably around the time of Leaf Generation 2. It’ll be interesting to see what price point Tesla goes after then, I doubt it’ll be the same price point the Leaf will be at, probably higher, but i’ll be interesting to see.

In the mean time I’ll salivate over Tesla’s vehicles and their capabilities while looking forward to being able to afford the plug in vehicles closer to earth, and their compromises, like the Leaf and Volt.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) February 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm

While I do like the look of the Model S, for me the Model X looks too much like the Honda Crosstour – which I don’t much care for.

I agree that this is the EV goal – to produce these types of vehicles for mass consumption. And you are probably not far off with your third generation prediction regarding potential for the LEAF and others. My thinking is that LEAF 2.0 will have a 200 mile range in four years or so, but at what cost is still the question. By then most if not all of the federal incentives will be gone so much will depend on the price of petrol. One point that I was going to make in the article and forgot to was the “Ooooh” factor. Let’s face it, a 17″ touchscreen for most controls is pretty cool.

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Sasparilla February 14, 2012 at 9:27 am

Good point about the Crosstour, it does look like a Tesla version of that. They do Oooh pretty well. πŸ˜‰

Gosh a Leaf with 200 mile range for v 2.0 sounds so nice – take me there. πŸ™‚ But like you said the federal incentives will certainly be spent for Nissan (I think the limit before it starts phasing down and out is 200,000 vehicles) by the time v 2 comes out 2015 or so – they’ll need to reduce costs as much as possible because of that loss of Federal incentives. With political choices by the GOP an extension seems unlikely, unfortunately (if the GOP sweeps in 2012 I could see them exterminating the federal incentives immediately with the oil companies cheering and paying them).

I remember reading comments from both GM and Nissan prior to first production of the Volt and Leaf that they were testing batteries with double the capacity of what was going into initial production models, the higher capacity batts just weren’t ready in time to make it.

I’d guess the following based on a WAG of double of battery capacity for the same overall battery cost. With the Leaf, I could see Nissan going for a 1.5 factor increase in pack capacity / range taking normal nice day range well above 100 miles and boosting nasty midwest cold day range significantly higher than it is (which it desperately needs) – while reducing cost of the vehicle some (pack size & cost is reduced by ~25% or so). An alternate choice Nissan could do would keep capacity / range the same and cut pack size and cost in half, but I hope they don’t do that, it needs more range.

I’d see GM doing a little different with the Volt v2, they keep their range at 40 miles or so and cut the size and cost of the pack in half, redesign it for air cooling (reducing cost again) and optimize the design as well (since alot of the Volt is drop in parts of other vehicle types) reducing their cost by a good chunk.

I read yesterday that the Honda EV+ (before Honda shredded them) had a 26 kWH NiMH pack which blew me away – I was assuming we were already way ahead of the capacity of those 90’s cars but we’re not (the cost per kWH for NiMH is lower than the Li batts for these first generation Li cars, Generation 2 should fix that).

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