With the Tesla Model Y set to deliver in just a few weeks, I don’t think anyone is ready to see just how popular this new SUV will be. Consumers have had very few options for affordable electric SUVs. With the Model Y coming so far ahead of when we originally expected Tesla is yet again going to be the first major contender in this market.
There’s plenty to speculate about ahead of the launch of the Model Y. But what has been really interesting is seeing the efficiency of the car. Given the affordable price point, we would expect the Model Y to be running similar hardware to the Model 3 with 250 miles of range. Since it’s a larger car, we could probably expect it to be a bit less than that. There’s no way we could get the same 300+ mile range of the Model X since that car costs literally twice as much.
And yet here we are, with the Model Y on the horizon, with an EPA estimated 315 miles of range. They position the Model Y as the most efficient SUV ever made. How is this possible?
A new approach
One potential source of this efficiency is the construction of the Model Y. Tesla has shifted gears with the Model Y, with a new casting technique to make the majority of the frame in one part. With less complexity the Model Y could be significantly lighter than we expected, contributing to this efficiency. We don’t currently know the weight of the Model Y, so we’ll have to wait to find how much this contributes to the efficiency of the car.
And we can’t ignore that Tesla is the king of battery technology. Some of this efficiency may come from the continued progress they’ve made in battery production technology and battery management software. Many analysts believe Tesla’s battery technology is 3 to 4 years ahead of the competition in terms of energy density and costs.
What this means for the future
There are 2 important aspects to the range of the Model Y, how it compares to other Tesla models, and how it compares to the rest of the industry. The comparison to other electric SUVs is almost unfair. Cars like the Volvo XC40 Recharge will not be able to survive with only 200 miles of range with something so much better on the market. While there are some options with comparable range on the horizon like the Nissan Ariya concept, the Model Y has a big boost being first to market. And as Tesla’s Supercharger network expands other manufacturers will need to find a way to compete.
And given Tesla’s advantage in battery technology, other manufacturers may never catch up. Seeing the efficiency of the Model Y compared to other Tesla models it’s clear they aren’t slowing down. We can expect Tesla to continue to push forward with its battery technology, approaching the range an efficient gas car can reach on a full tank. If Tesla continues to develop better technology at the rate they have been then by the time anyone responds with their own 300 mile SUV Tesla might already be at 400 miles.
So with all the cool features and cool design aspects of the Model Y, I think its biggest advantage is timing. Tesla is yet again coming to market first with a high-quality vehicle that no one can compete with. With consumers generally preferring larger cars, there’s really only one option.
The Model Y is very well positioned to be the best selling electric car we have ever seen. And that money is going to go back to making even better, even more, efficient cars. Frankly, if I was a big established car brand I’d be scared. As things are right now I don’t see any way another car manufacturer could possibly go up against Tesla.