Tag Archives: Tesla

Tesla Is Secretly Building a Giant Battery in Texas

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A few years back, Tesla built a giant battery in southern Australia. Now, the company may be doing the same thing in Texas. The Australian battery has been hailed as a success since coming online, and someone in Texas has evidently had a similar idea.

Bloomberg reports that the new battery installation will be larger than 100MW and will store enough power to provide 20,000 homes with an hour of electricity on a hot summer day. The facility is being built by Gambit Energy Storage LLC, but Gambit’s headquarters are listed at the same address as a Tesla building near its Fremont auto plant.

This new battery installation is adjacent to a Texas-New Mexico power substation, but the utility’s name is a bit misleading in this case. TNMP moved all of its New Mexico-based business to a sister company back in 2006 and currently provides service only within Texas. The company claims some 255,000 customers. Interestingly, TNMP was itself recently acquired by Avangrid. The renewable energy division of Avangrid, Avangrid Renewables LLC, is said to be the third-largest wind power operator in the United States.

These particulars go some way to explaining why TNMP, specifically, might be investing in a large battery backup system, even before Texas’ massive winter storm. The Bloomberg story doesn’t say if the new battery installation was commissioned before or after the storm, but the additional stored energy could have been used to buffer demand as Texas struggled to keep its power generation capabilities online.

Tesla’s ‘Megapack’ battery. We presume this is an artist’s conception, given that nine out of ten experts agree: Putting a giant battery in the middle of the road is a bad idea.

Texas’s woes are an excellent argument for battery backups regardless of whether said battery is deployed as part of a renewable installation. Texas didn’t lose power because it relies partly on renewable energy to meet its energy needs. It lost power because the vast majority of its energy-generating equipment wasn’t winterized. Wind turbines and natural gas wellheads both froze in the storm, cutting off the supply of energy right when Texans needed it the most. The new 100MW+ facility won’t just be useful during freak cold snaps. It can also deliver additional electricity for air conditioning at times when conventional generation facilities are strained by demand.

The advantage to batteries, in these instances, is that they can deliver peak power instantly, with no spin-up period. The battery is then recharged when demand is lower, typically through the night and into the early morning hours.

The 100MW battery Tesla installed in Australia has performed well enough that a different Australian company, Neoen, has partnered with Tesla to build an even larger facility. A new 300MW/450MWhr facility is under construction in Victoria. In addition to providing backup power, it will serve as a load-balancing facility, ensuring peak power can be delivered to Victoria and New South Wales. There’s also a new facility in California, the 250MW Gateway Energy Storage. Like this new Tesla project in Texas, the Gateway Energy Storage project is designed to provide instantaneous power at peak demand and to help prevent the rolling blackouts that hit California last year.

It is difficult to find hard data on how the various efforts to create battery-backed microgrids have performed, long-term. The grid that Tesla built on American Samoa back in 2016 appears to be performing well. COVID-19 disrupted plans to expand the use of microgrids and solar there, but work is expected to resume in 2021. Puerto Rico has also approved plans that call for the construction of microgrids across the island to improve its energy security. Negative and more positive reports have covered the long-term impact of microgrids in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, but the island is betting on microgrids as a key part of its future. Solar power currently accounts for just 1.4 percent of Puerto Rico’s power generation, but there are plans to add 2.7GW of solar capacity by 2025.

The feature image shows Tesla battery installation on the island of Ta’u. 

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Bitcoin hits new all time high after Tesla reveals it has stockpiled $1.5B of it

Bitcoin hit a new all time high on Monday morning after electric car maker Tesla revealed that it has stockpiled more than $ 1.5 billion US worth of the cryptocurrency, and will soon start accepting it as a form of payment for its products.

Tesla revealed in a regulatory filing on monday that it converted $ 1.5 billion US into bitcoin in January, as part of its investment strategy for funds not currently needed to maintain operations,” and may acquire and hold digital assets from time to time or long-term.”

“Moreover, we expect to begin accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for our products in the near future, subject to applicable laws and initially on a limited basis, which we may or may not liquidate upon receipt,”the automaker said.

That lit a fire under bitcoin’s price, which jumped about nine per cent to more than $ 43,000 US.

The price of the cryptocurrency has risen by 50 per cent this year, on the heels of a 300 per cent spike in 2020.

Bitcoin enthusiasts are drawn to the cryptocurrency as a store of value, partly because governments around the world have been spending exorbitant amounts of borrowed cash in a bid to stimulate the economy through the pandemic. That has raised fears that inflation will at some point be a major problem, which would devalue fiat currencies such as U.S. and Canadian dollars.

“Whether there is someone out there that would actually buy a Tesla with bitcoin now is another thing but this is a big move by the company,” said Craig Erlam  with foreign exchange firm OANDA.

BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, and payment firms Square and PayPal are already among those who either currently hold bitcoin, or accept it as payments, and speculation is rising that more could soon, too, as it gains legitimacy.

“If this becomes a trend in corporate treasuries the downside of staying on the sidelines will only become costlier over time,” said Maya Zehavi, a blockchain consultant.

“Some other companies may be tempted to follow but the vast majority will be far too cautious to expose themselves to the volatile world of cryptos. Musk isn’t one to shy away from bold moves though and has now put his money (well, Tesla’s) where his mouth is,” said Erlam, adding that he could see the bitcoin hitting $ 50,000 US soon if momentum continues. “Either way, it’s off to the moon we go.”

Dennis Mitchell, CEO of Toronto-based money manager Starlight Capital, says his company doesn’t hold bitcoin in any of its funds, but he does say he expects the volatility to continue.

“Personally I have zero of my own personal assets in bitcoin and that’s not going to change any time soon [but] when Musk tweets the signal being sent is that demand is going to increase,” he told CBC News in an interview.

“I would anticipate greater demand going forward.”

That seems to be already the case in the short term, as a number of cryptocurrency exchanges reported having difficulty processing orders amid sudden demand.

San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Kraken said it had temporarily disabled sign-ups after heavy traffic led to connectivity issues with its website, while peers Gemini and Binance said their systems were currently experiencing difficulties.

Digital currencies news site CoinDesk said it was experiencing difficulties but has so far managed to keep up normal operations.
“Our platform is fully up and running and has been throughout the recent trading surges,” CoinDesk said.

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Tesla Will Recall 134,000+ Vehicles Affected by Inevitable eMMC Failure

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Tesla will recall every Model S and Model X vehicle that shipped with an 8GB eMMC NAND flash chip. Affected vehicles were produced between 2012-2018 (Model S) and 2016-2018 (Model X). Those produced after 2018 are configured with additional storage capacity and will not fail in the same fashion.

Any Model S or Model X with an 8GB Media Control Unit (MCU) will eventually fail, as we covered last month. This is not an issue that only affects certain vehicles. NAND flash is only rated for a fixed number of write cycles, which is to say, new data can only be written to the same physical sector of NAND a finite number of times. Tesla, unfortunately, shipped a number of vehicles with very aggressive data logging. It has since reduced some of these practices, but the amount of data the vehicle logs and transmits will inevitably wear out the NAND flash of any affected Model S or X.

When that NAND flash fails, so does the Media Control Unit. The driver loses access to climate controls and the backup camera. According to the NHTSA, the MCU’s failure affects the “rearview camera display, defrost /defog control settings, and exterior turn signal lighting.”

The Tesla Model S cockpit, with an MCU1-powered LCD.

Tesla told the NHTSA that these failures don’t constitute a safety risk. The NHTSA letter states: “We note that your report states that Tesla believes that this matter does not have a safety risk. In our view, this statement has no force or effect in terms of Tesla’s obligation to undertake and complete the recall, and NHTSA does not agree with it.”

ET agrees with the NHTSA. Tesla’s innovations and willingness to approach car manufacturing differently is praiseworthy, but Tesla should have known that an 8GB eMMC unit wasn’t going to stand up to constant logging for years on end. Most vehicles don’t log nearly as much information as Tesla does and an 8GB NAND flash chip simply wasn’t going to cut it.

The number of vehicles being recalled is down slightly from the 159K figure being quoted in January. Still, the recall affects 134,951 cars. If you own one of them, you’d best get in touch with the company. The recall statement promises that Tesla will “replace the VCM daughterboard with one containing an enhanced eMMC controller, free of charge.” That language is ambiguous enough that Tesla could just swap the older MCU1 units with MCU2. Alternately, it could equip existing Tegra 3 boards with more storage. The Tegra 3 SoC was capable of addressing at least 64GB of eMMC memory. Microsoft’s Surface RT was sold in this configuration. Tesla may have outfitted its boards with 8GB, but it ought to be able to upgrade them.

Tesla’s recall will kick off on March 30. Vehicle owners will be notified by mail. Owners may also contact Tesla at 1-877-798-3752. The number for the recall is SB-21-21-001.

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Tesla Revamps Model S Sedan Inside and Out, Adds 520-Mile Version

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Tesla has unveiled its biggest update to its Model S sedan since its unveiling in 2009 and launch in 2012. That’s normally an eternity for production cars, although a few have gone longer recently (see: Dodge Challenger and Charger, Nissan Frontier) and Tesla has been able to update the Model S with software tweaks more than other automakers.

This time, though, the refresh is significant outside and a full revamp inside. The exterior gets revised front and rear ends and a more pronounced stance, thanks to some subtle flaring in the door panels ahead of the rear wheels that give the illusion of a rake and more width. It’s a relatively safe update, but the car’s styling was always pretty timeless to begin with. Tesla says the new model has a .208 coefficient of drag (Cd), which the company claims makes the Model S the “lowest-drag car on Earth.”

Inside, the most dramatic change comes via the yoke-style steering wheel, which is either a nod to Formula-style race cars or a throwback to the Knight Industries Two Thousand, depending on your viewpoint. There are no longer stalks or shifters to either side of the wheel. The center stack now has a horizontally aligned 17-inch display with 2,200 by 1,300 resolution and a slight leftward tilt. Tri-zone air conditioning, ventilated front seats, and HEPA filtration deliver more luxurious cooling, and you get wireless and USB-C fast charging with enough juice to power a laptop. The audio system now has 22 speakers and 960 watts of power with active noise cancellation.

Second-row seating also gets a redesign, with additional legroom and headroom, a new LCD for rear passengers, and integrated wireless charging in the center armrest. The company says the car now has up to 10 teraflops of power and can support in-car gaming with today’s latest consoles, including wireless controller compatibility and the ability to play “from any seat.”

The new Model S starts at $ 79,990 for the dual-motor Long Range, which snaps off 0-60 runs in 3.1 seconds and yet runs for 412 miles on a full charge, with 670 peak horsepower (“peak” being a nod to the fact that depleted batteries affect power, unlike with fossil-fuel-powered vehicles). The $ 119,990 Plaid edition gets three motors and all-wheel-drive, and Tesla is claiming an insane under-2-second 0-60 time, 1,020 peak horsepower, a 200 mph top speed, and a 390-mile range. You’re not getting all of those at once. But you’re also not getting 25mpg in a Mustang GT running at 150 mph with the accelerator pedal pushed into the floorboards, even if the ‘stang can achieve that kind of fuel economy at normal highway speeds. Finally, an 1,100-hp Plaid+ option will cost $ 139,990 and have a reported range of 520 miles, which would be ludicrous if true–in pure Tesla fashion, of course.

The Long Range and Plaid arrive in February, according to Elon Musk; look for the Plaid+ before the end of the year. The Model X crossover SUV will also get the new interior and dashboard screen, plus new Long Range and Plaid versions, although its exterior remains unchanged.

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Tesla Ordered to Recall 150K+ Vehicles to Repair Memory Failures

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Tesla has been ordered to recall roughly 159,000 vehicles to fix a problem in the Media Control Unit. News broke several months ago that over 12,000 Tesla vehicles had suffered a significant NAND flash failure that killed the vehicle’s touch screen. Many vehicle controls in a Tesla are accessed via touch screen, and the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) began an investigation after over 500 complaints were filed about the issue.

There are several interlocking reasons for the problem. Tesla’s onboard MCU initially contained just 8GB of NAND Flash. Tesla writes extensively to the NAND flash for data logging (problem #1), which winds up depleting the 3,000 program/erase cycles the onboard NAND flash is capable of. Once its onboard NAND fails, the touch screen stops working, freezing the end-user out of climate controls and from using the rear backup camera. It also is said to impact “audible chimes related to ADAS, Autopilot, and turn signals.”

Image by InsideEVs. The affected eMMC chip is indicated by the red arrow.

Tesla shipped this iteration of its MCU in ~159,000 vehicles, including 2012-2018 versions of the Model S and 2016-2018 versions of the Model X. The current failure rate at the time of the initial investigation was as high as 30 percent in certain build months, and failure rates accelerate after 3-4 years in service. In the summer of 2020, Tesla introduced an MCU with a 64GB eMMC chip instead of 8GB, which should alleviate the problem. The issue with older vehicles, however, remains unresolved. Typically, the NHTSA doesn’t formally demand a recall, because a manufacturer voluntarily provides one. Tesla has already acknowledged that 100 percent of vehicles with this issue will eventually fail and the NHTSA report, discussed by Reuters, indicates that nine other automakers have previously performed voluntary recalls to resolve issues like this.

The NHTSA report states: “Tesla has implemented several over-the-air updates in an attempt to mitigate some of the issues … but tentatively believes these updates are procedurally and substantively insufficient.” It noted that under the law, “vehicle manufacturers are required to conduct recalls to remedy safety-related defects.”

One of the major complaints about how Tesla is handling this situation is that the company is forcing end-users to pay for a problem it should have resolved years ago. Tesla fired its entire PR office last year, so there’s no one we can contact to get an opinion on the topic. As of this writing, no comments have been made via Twitter on how the company plans to respond to the recall “request,” but if Tesla wants to fight it, it’ll have to provide its full reasoning and justification for why the failure doesn’t constitute a safety risk to the vehicle or driver.

Tesla appears to be the only company currently suffering from this exact logging problem, which probably speaks to the wisdom of logging such exhaustive amounts of information to consumer eMMC in the first place with no long-term plan for what to do when the NAND flash failed. There’s no excuse for selling a vehicle knowing its NAND flash will begin to fail in 3-4 years with no plan for how to deal with that beyond, “Charge the customer for a replacement if it happens out of warranty.”

This issue only affects earlier Tesla models. If you bought one in the last year or two, you may not be affected. Vehicles equipped with Intel hardware don’t seem to have the same problem as earlier Tegra 3-based designs, though again — the issue here is the small amount of NAND, not the fact that the entertainment system was made by Intel or Nvidia.

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Tesla Model 3 Crash Hurls Battery Cells Into Nearby Home

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According to the police department of Corvallis, Oregon, slamming into large, stationary objects in a moving vehicle at over 100mph can have catastrophic effects on pretty much everything in the vicinity. On 11-17, the town police responded to a single-car crash in which the vehicle sheared “a power pole off at the base as well as striking and knocking over two trees and a telephone junction box.”

The next part is where things get a little nuts:

The damage from the collision caused the batteries from the Tesla to enter two different residences by breaking through the windows, one landing on a person’s lap and the second landing on a bed, catching the bedding on fire. A tire was ripped from the car during the collision and struck the second story siding of a nearby apartment complex with such force that it ruptured the water pipes within the wall, destroying the bathroom to the apartment and flooding the downstairs portion of the apartment as well.

One of the Model 3’s battery cells. Corvallis Police Department

No matter what you think of Tesla, let us pause a moment and reflect on the nature of this achievement. In a matter of seconds, a single Model 3 launched a brief career as an electrician, landscaper, and telephone repairman before segueing into home remodeling and plumbing. Truly, a vehicle for our age.

Tesla goes to some trouble to make certain that the battery cells in its vehicles don’t go flying in the event of a collision. But the nature of this impact was obviously sufficient to break whatever solution the manufacturer has developed for dealing with the problem. Previous teardowns of the Model 3 battery pack have shown that the cells are sealed in place with high-strength epoxy.

The problems of an out-of-control vehicle are, of course, scarcely limited to BEVs. I once lived a short distance from a very steep hill that descended over about half a mile down to a three-way intersection. There was a house directly across from where the steep descent met the intersection. I can’t say I was surprised to drive past one day and see what was left of a sedan sitting where the chimney had been. Any one-ton vehicle moving at triple-digit speeds is capable of tremendous destruction.

With that said, there does appear to be a unique problem for BEVs in a situation like this. According to a follow-up post, the Model 3 battery cells can remain hot to the touch and might cause burns for up to 24 hours following involuntary dispersal. That kind of hazard — specifically, the length of time you might be at risk from harm due to leftover detritus — seems a potentially significant issue in certain situations. Tesla’s epoxy solution shows it has considered the problem, but there may be reason to revisit things. It is unclear if individual cells remain at significant risk for secondary ignition after being separated from the main battery for any length of time or if the majority of fire risk is in the immediate period post-impact.

The driver, incidentally, survived, which seems to say something good about Tesla’s crash survival measures, at the least. The vehicle, needless to say, did not.

Feature image by the Corvallis Police Department

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Musk: Tesla Was a Month From Bankruptcy During Model 3 Ramp-Up

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Before Tesla, electric cars were more like golf carts than the high-performance vehicles gaining popularity today. But Musk’s EV startup was always a longshot. We’ve heard numerous stories about how the company almost went belly-up in its early days, but CEO and founder Elon Musk just revealed that the company was on the verge of failure much more recently. The Model 3 almost spelled doom for Tesla, but the same vehicle also probably saved it. 

As with most Tesla tidbits, this one comes from Elon Musk’s Twitter ruminations. Unlike most people who run multiple high-profile companies, Elon Musk spends a lot of his time bantering on Twitter. Sometimes that involves making (demonstrably false) claims about COVID-19, but it gives us insight into what SpaceX and Tesla are up to at least as often. 

When replying to a recent tweet about Tesla’s financial state during the Model 3 ramp-up, Musk revealed just how dire the situation was. The Model 3 was Tesla’s first vehicle priced even remotely near standard gasoline cars. The Model S started around $ 70,000, which is much more than your average car-buyer is looking to spend. The Roadster, meanwhile, was a bit north of that. 

According to Musk’s tweet, the company was within a month of bankruptcy as it struggled to get Model 3 production up and running at full capacity. He also called the process “Production & logistics hell.” Musk even agreed to run the company for no pay in 2018, aside from the option to buy more Tesla stock if the company could continue growing. 

Tesla launched the Model 3 in 2017 without the promised $ 35,000 version, but the mid-of-the-road Model 3 was still much cheaper than the Model S of the day. Interest was high, but Tesla’s production lagged. In the first six months of the car’s availability, Tesla only shipped 1,764 vehicles to customers. Even as it sold every car it could make, concerns about Tesla’s profitability continued well into 2019. 

More recently, Tesla appears to have turned the corner. Tesla has seen record sales and locked in its fifth consecutive quarterly profit last month, pulling in $ 331 million on $ 8.77 billion in revenue. If this trend continues, Tesla should announce its first-ever annual profit in about three months. It’s come a long way since almost going under a few years ago.

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SpaceX: Starman Just Flew Elon’s Tesla Past Mars for the First Time

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SpaceX has made history too many times to count in the last few years, but the 2018 Falcon Heavy test stands out. Not only did SpaceX ace its first heavy-lift demonstration, but it also gave us all a good laugh by launching Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster into space. It’s still up there, complete with the spacesuited mannequin known as Starman. SpaceX has noted that Starman has made his first close pass of Mars, getting within a few million miles of the red planet. 

The Falcon Heavy began life as the Falcon 9 Heavy, the first heavy-lift SpaceX vehicle that could reach destinations like Mars. The rocket is actually three rockets—a central Falcon 9 with structural reinforcement and then two more Falcon 9s mounted to the side. While SpaceX has since begun focusing on its next-generation Starship vehicle for heavy-lift missions, the Falcon Heavy has completed a few flights since its maiden voyage. 

That first flight was a real barn-burner, though. SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy from historic launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The side-mounted Falcon 9 boosters flew back down for a perfect landing, but the center was going too fast and hit the water. The payload, however, made it to space as planned. 

The Roadster’s current orbit.

When testing a new rocket, engineers don’t want to put anything important inside. Musk reminded everyone at the time there was a significant chance the rocket would just explode. Instead of something boring, SpaceX used Musk’s Tesla Roadster as ballast. Because SpaceX has a flair for the dramatic, it added cameras to the car so we could see “Starman” riding the car into space. It was, admittedly, pretty cool. 

Following the launch, SpaceX burned the second stage’s engines until the fuel was exhausted. That left the car and its eternal passenger crossing the orbit of Mars. Every now and then, we can expect Starman and Mars to be in the same part of space, and that just happened for the first time. 

According to SpaceX, Starman got very close to the red planet, at least on an orbital scale. The car made it within 0.5 AU (under 5 million miles) of Mars before the pair moved apart again. Mars would have appeared smaller from that vantage than the moon does from Earth, but it would have looked like a planet and not a distant point of light. 

This dance will continue long into the future. Whatever is left of the car might crash into Earth or Venus in a few million years, but it’ll keep cruising the stars until then.

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Tesla Has Some Serious Quality Control Problems With the Model Y

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It’s not unusual for a car manufacturer to have difficulty ramping up production on a new model, but reports concerning Tesla’s Model Y suggest the manufacturer is having far more problems than is normal. The Model 3 may have been compared with a 1990s Kia when it launched, but at least a few people have gotten Model Y’s delivered to them without the backseat being attached to the frame of the car.

Image by Electrek. I think we’re all in agreement that this qualifies as bad.

Reports of remarkably shoddy workmanship have been surfacing ever since Tesla restarted production of the Model Y at its California factory. Tesla has itself indirectly confirmed that the model is having problems, though it hasn’t officially responded to these most recent articles.

In an email to production employees last week, Musk made several references to Model Y production, writing: “It is extremely important for us to ramp up Model Y production and minimize rectification needs.” He thanks the production workers for “bearing with tough conditions,” and says they should be alleviated soon.

Disconnected back seats are serious, but they aren’t the only problem. Buyers on Reddit have reported rear trunk latches that won’t close properly, various paint and trim problems, indentations in the seats, and loose seatbelts. Buyers have been forced to refuse delivery in some cases, while others report being contacted by Tesla to reschedule delivery of their vehicles due specifically to quality control issues and defects.

Setting aside the fact that no one should ever have to take delivery of a less-than-perfect vehicle, many of these issues are cosmetic. But the few that aren’t are downright concerning. An unattached backseat is a genuine hazard, as are broken or loose seatbelts.

At a guess, Tesla is trying to make certain its Q2 numbers aren’t downright terrible. The company is likely to take a short-term hit due to the pandemic, and the 2nd quarter closes in just two weeks. To our way of thinking, it’s better to keep the cars back and build them properly rather than charging ahead with deliveries at the cost of quality. Every customer that either can’t accept their car or has to reschedule the delivery due to defects is likely to be angrier than a customer who simply has to wait longer. Most people are aware that the coronavirus epidemic has been awful for manufacturers, particularly vehicle manufacturers. Drawing long-term conclusions about Tesla or any other manufacturer based on their performance during the worst economic quarter of any of our lives to-date would be a rather stupid thing to do.

At the same time? Come on. Early cars of a brand new model having some dings and scratches is to be expected, but don’t ship them to customers without major pieces of the interior attached to the frame. That’s the kind of problem that can get someone killed.

Normally this is where we make some kind of prediction or summary in how the EV market is going, but with the bottom having fallen out of the entire automotive industry, that feels rather impossible just at the moment. Anything less than a total bloodbath for Tesla at the end of Q2 is probably good, and even a massive loss will probably just mean the company has a lot of company. It may not have been a good idea to launch the Model Y six months early after all.

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Tesla Slashes Prices By Up to $5,000 on Almost Every Vehicle Line

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Tesla has cut its prices on multiple models, with price cuts of up to $ 5,000 on specific vehicles. The cuts may be an attempt to stimulate demand after the pandemic, but Tesla hasn’t announced an official rationale.

First up, the Standard Range Plus variant of the Model 3 has picked up a $ 2,000 price cut, dropping from $ 39,990 to $ 37,990. The Model S Long Range Plus is now $ 74,990, a $ 5,000 reduction from its previous price of $ 79,990. Both vehicles dropped by ~5-6 percent, so the degree of reduction is equivalent on both cars.

Click to enlarge.

Similarly, the Model S Performance is now $ 94,990, and the Model X Long Range Plus is down to $ 79,990. The only product line that doesn’t seem to have been impacted by price cuts is the Model Y, but that vehicle only recently launched, and cutting its price by $ 5,000 now would be a slap in the face to people who’ve just recently purchased the car.

The automotive market is currently in bad shape. A report from Meticulous Research suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic could knock 12-15 percent off the global automotive industry in 2020. Industry tracker ALG believes May 2020 vehicle sales will be 21 percent below May 2019. Include the impact of reduced fleet sales, and the decline is larger, down an estimated 32 percent from last year.

So, should we all expect great deals? Unclear. Hertz’s recent bankruptcy could flood the market with used vehicles because the company has already stated it intends to begin some fleet liquidation as part of its Chapter 11 proceedings. If buyers head for used vehicles instead of new ones, we could see more manufacturers offering aggressive discounts to move new vehicles.

As for Tesla, specifically, opinions are divided. Some investors think this is a sign of improved profitability at Tesla thanks to larger economies of scale and that the company has the room to cut prices and attempt to stimulate demand. Those who are more bearish on Tesla see the move as intended to ward off a potential demand cliff. I’m scarcely an automotive analyst, but judging by the reports coming out of the industry, you don’t have to be to see that manufacturers are spooked by the idea of a long-term decline in car-buying thanks to COVID-19. That’s the kind of cliff that every manufacturer could fall off, not just Tesla. If car sales don’t pick up in the near future as the economy reopens, auto manufacturers may face serious problems in the months ahead.

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