Tesla (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc Report seems determined to extend its dominance in the highly lucrative electric vehicle market. Chief Executive Elon Musk’s firm wants to push its advantage over its competitors as much as possible.
The timing is good: Legacy automakers like GM (GM) – Get General Motors Company Report and Ford (F) – Get Ford Motor Company Report are still making the transition to electrification, and young guns like Lucid (LCID) – Get Lucid Group, Inc. Report and Rivian (RIVN) – Get Rivian Automotive, Inc. Class A Report are finding it difficult to manage their increased production rates.
Seeing this this less rosy picture for its rivals, Tesla has decided to respond to the demands of consumers, who are turning a little more toward electric vehicles as gasoline prices have soared.
The Musk team has quietly obtained clearance from the Environmental Protection Agency to produce a variant of the electric SUV Model Y. We don’t have many details about this mysterious car, which appeared on the website FuelEconomy.gov, from the U.S. Energy Department.
This suggests that the agency has already tested the new car.
This new configuration of the Model Y SUV has a range of 279 miles and an all-wheel-drive powertrain. It’s not available on Tesla’s Model Y website, so Tesla isn’t likely to be marketing it yet.
Tesla currently sells two versions of the Model Y: Long Range (range 330 miles with a starting price at $59,990) and Model Y Performance (range 303 miles with a starting price at $64,990).
This news comes as Tesla prepares to officially open its gigafactory in Austin. This production site will be dedicated to producing the Model Y.
One question now is whether the Model Y SUV with a range of 279 miles will be produced in Austin or in the company’s gigafactory in Berlin, which will officially open on March 22.
What Kind of Batteries?
This point is important because it could answer the question of which type of batteries will fit this new configuration of the Model Y, which has a dual motor powertrain.
The Model Y SUVs to be produced in Berlin will be equipped with the 4680 cell structural batteries. These batteries will inaugurate a new platform, basically a new technique. The new structural batteries will be built in such a way that Model Y seats will be attached directly to them, saving even more parts, space and money.
Speculation is rife that vehicles produced in Texas will be equipped with the new 4680 battery cells and the structural battery pack. But given the shorter range – 279 miles – the new Model Y version appears unlikely to have them.
The only information the EPA has provided suggests that this Model Y variant is equipped with lithium-iron-phosphate batteries.
The big advantage of LFP batteries is that they are provide lower cost per mile, they last longer and don’t contain cobalt or nickel, which makes the car cheaper.
On the other hand, their range is lower and the batteries charge much more slowly in cold weather.
Tesla is already making vehicles with LFP chemistry at its factory in Shanghai. It sells those cars in China, the Asia-Pacific region, and Europe.
The automaker said during its third-quarter earnings last year that these LFP batteries would be used in its standard-range cars, instead of the nickel-cobalt-aluminum-oxide cells that Tesla previously used for Model 3 sedans.
In fact, last September, when Tesla was facing high demand for its entry-level Model 3 sedan, the automaker asked customers in North America whether they would accept a vehicle with LFP cells.