What Are The Tesla Cards That We Cannot See?

3 years ago by Josh Bryant 42

Elon Musk is not fond of sleeves, so where will he keep these cards?

Elon Musk is not fond of sleeves, so where will he keep these cards?

Elon Musk mentioned Tesla is holding cards we cannot see in the Q2 conference call. He claims in the past Tesla has be showing all of its cards.

Is there room for another motor/inverter/differential in there?

Is there room for another motor/inverter/differential in there?

The new found covert stratgety seems strange because Musk has been known to leak big things out during a Q&As at random events. It seems like he gets so excited about new stuff Tesla is working on that he just has to tell the world (or the average joe asking a relevant question).  Just how long will he be able to hold back before we see the full hand?

Here is my list of the top items for the “secret cards:”

AWD Model S

For people following Tesla, this seems like a forgone conclusion. They have already announced that every Model X will be AWD. It seems obvious that it would make its way back into the Model S. It has even been hinted as an eventual feature long ago. But we have never gotten firm confirmation, pricing, and availability. Remember that AWD was supposed to be a needed system to help keep the Model X range 200+ miles with the same battery packs. Could this mean that Model S will get a range boost for the AWD system? Will they make Model S AWD standard?

Tesla CEO's Shout-Out For Help On Autonomous Drive

Tesla CEO’s Shout-Out For Help On Autonomous Drive

Auto pilot system

Auto pilot is probably the other worst kept secret.

Musk used his favorite form of advertising (Twitter), to recruit employees to develop it 11 months ago.  I recently found a startup company working on a retrofit Auto Pilot system (very similar to what Musk eluded to) for Audis. They complained that they had been in competition with Tesla on recruiting top talent from MIT. So again not a real secret, but market availability? Pricing? Will this show up as a feature on Model X and Model S early next year?


Is Panasonic handing over some better cells now?

Is Panasonic handing over some better cells now?

Bigger Batteries (same cost)

There was a recent hint that the Roadster was going to get a retrofit 400 mile battery pack. Why now?  Roughly 3 years after the design freeze of the Model S battery pack.

Within 12 months of Model X coming out that could really use a few more kWhs to keep the bar on range. Right around the time that Panasonic is making a meaningful jump in battery supply, after a tooling investment at their own facilities.

I think all these things line up for a possible jump in battery sizes for Tesla. It would be a huge wave of excitement and might tip some maybe buyers over the edge if range was their real concern.


Stationary Storage product

Is Tesla going to start selling lots of these? (credit to Greentech Media)

Is Tesla going to start selling lots of these? (credit to Greentech Media)

Again, not a complete unknown here as they have shown them as prototypes at their factory and a few SuperChargers. But they have not made any real splash with contract sales to other parties on them. If they really do have some excess battery supply while they get the Model X up and rolling, there could be a sales push on the stationary storage front that would bring in meaningful revenue. I really think this is more of a distraction at this point and really hope this isn’t their big ace in the sleeve.


Phoenix Motorcars 4 seat Sport Utility Truck

The Tesla truck would probably look cooler than these (Phoenix Motorcars 4 seat Sport Utility Truck)

Another vehicle (Truck?)

Sticking with the theme of surprise, but not unheard of. Truck, Model Truck, Model T (I don’t think even Musk has those gonads) has been something that Musk has dreamed about it the past.

He would love to slap their nifty active air suspension and monster torque motor in a 4WD pick ’em up truck and hit some real gasoline offset.

While I think they could make a really awesome truck with performance, towing, and some cool utility tech, I don’t see it coming in at a price tag anywhere near competitive.

There is no pickup truck market in the 100k range, so I think this is on the shelf until after Model 3.


Apple Logo

Is Tesla going to take the App Store page from the Apple playbook?

Third Party Applications

This is one that I think everyone has basically forgotten about. There is a double iPad on the dash just waiting to be monetized.

Car applications for the Model S would be a huge hit and would probably command a premium price tag. $30 – $100 for a nice application customized for your Model S would probably have a real market. If Tesla is getting a 30% cut, and no capex involved, it would look good on their balance sheet. On top of it, it would raise owner satisfaction even more. Features that Tesla doesn’t have time to address would get picked up in the secondary market.


Inverters for the Solar Market

Is Tesla going to start sending some serious product over to Solar City?

Is Tesla going to start sending some serious product over to Solar City?

This is one that I picked up from a TMC member (sorry, can’t remember which one, too much reading lately).

JB Straubel is always looking at powertrain and power electronics technology. Apparently there is a need at Solar City for a much better inverter, both in efficiency and cost. This does seem like it would fit into the engineering skill set of the Tesla team. This might be a project they could crank out and make a solid secondary income on. Like the stationary storage, I don’t think this is a good time for Tesla to start splitting their attention.

SuperChargers, Service Centers, Model X, GigaFactory, and production expansion seem like they would consume their focus for now. Oh and the umpteen rocket launches Musk as also committed to, all while landing rockets back on the pad. At some point he won’t be able to keep his eyes on everything.

Fire away in the comments with other ideas that should be in Tesla’s secret deck of cards.

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42 responses to "What Are The Tesla Cards That We Cannot See?"

  1. Zach says:

    Joint electric plane venture with SpaceX?

    1. Josh says:

      I would love to see the veritcal takeoff, vertical landing supersonic electric aircraft that Musk has mentioned in the past (even in IromMan II). Unfortunately I think that is far in the future at this point, unless someone else executes it for him, ala Hyper Loop.

  2. DanCar says:

    Tesla said 30% increase in battery power due to increase size in batteries. So expect that feature to hit the model-x and model-s refresh. We can expect energy density to improve 6% each year, this is from Nissan engineer. Model-x is longer than model-s so perhaps it can hold more batteries. Expect the model-x to come with a 300 mile range option and model-s refresh to have a 350 mile range option.

    I don’t think will happen but would be cool if it did. New model-r tesla which is a stripped down model-s. Software limited maximum torque. Base price $60K.

    1. Josh says:

      As far as the battery goes, I am expecting to see a better 18650 cell from Panasonic for the Model X. I don’t think we will see the new size until the GigaFactory comes online.

      I do agree that battery would be the biggest splash Tesla could make and they have not tipped their hand that it is coming.

    2. Anthony says:

      I think you’re a bit optimistic on your range estimates.

      I think we’ll see a 100kWh battery pack for the Model X at launch using new 4000mAh 18650 cells from Panasonic. It will be available in the Model S in mid 2015 (not immediately). This pack will ensure the Model X can get 250 miles per charge, and the Model S will get 300 miles (EPA).

      I think the larger cells (based on the call, I’d call them 21750 cells – 21mm dia, 750mm tall) will come with the GF, but not sooner, and will likely end up the model 3 first.

    3. Spec9 says:

      Yeah, reducing battery costs is the thing I am most interested. It is over paramount importance.

      Behind that, making the Model 3 look good is important. Everything else is just icing.

      1. Josh says:

        I don’t think we will see the cost of the batteries go down until the GigaFactory gets built. I do think they will get more energy per cell at the same cost.

        There is a little bit of a difference there. They can add to the range of Model S/X at the same cost, but not lower the cost of the vehicle. They have pretty much locked themselves into the battery case size on this vehicle platform.

    4. Jim_NJ says:

      As others have noted, the energy storage business is definitely in the works, especially in conjunction with Musk-related Solar City.

      Here’s an interesting article about a guy who owns a Chevy Volt, but also has a Tesla in his garage. Not a Tesla Model S, but a Tesla battery pack:


      First, Randy Ross bought a Chevy Volt. Faced with the need to charge his car and eager to cut his utility bill, he installed solar panels on the roof of his Pleasanton home.

      Now Ross, 61, has taken the next big step toward energy independence: his own battery storage system, which gives him a source of backup power and could ultimately let him tap solar electricity whenever he needs it, not just when the sun is shining.

      Ross’s lithium-ion battery storage system, contained in a 4-foot-tall metal box mounted on the wall of his garage, is made by Tesla but offered by San Mateo-based SolarCity to its California solar customers as part of a small pilot project. SolarCity is currently offering what it calls the Home Energy Storage system for $1,500 down and $15 a month over a 10-year lease period.

      1. ModernMarvelFan says:

        “Home Energy Storage system for $1,500 down and $15 a month over a 10-year lease period.”

        How does this make any financial sense?

        $15/month x 12 month is $180/yr. 10 year cost about $1800 + $1500 = $3300 just for battery backup?

        It doesn’t say how much battery there is. But $3300 just for battery backup…

        1. Spec9 says:

          Batteries never make sense for solar PV systems, IMHO, unless it is some remote off-grid cabin.

          1. david_cary says:

            Just to be contrarion….

            I pay a lot more than $300 a year to be grid tied and utilities are threatening (and getting in some areas) a lot more than that.

            Batteries might start making sense even in well connected suburbs.

        2. Phr3d says:

          I am presuming that the utility would like to experiment with wide-area peak storage on the cheap. As a homeowner that has looked at UPS for the house, I know how expensive it can be to power my furnace, so the price is about right if it fits that usage, and the utility gets to install -exactly- what they need to peak-offset? IF it proves out in the experiment, I think you’ll see a price drop as it becomes more common.
          Here in the midwest, I’d sign up in a heartbeat for no winter-storm power-outage worries. Presuming that you can run your house on the battery output (probably not likely, but..) your electric bill is zero against $1.2k/year or (much) more. Too lazy to do total payoff of this and the solar.

  3. pjwood says:

    On larger batteries, and stationary storage, just looking at ‘Tesla Model S by the numbers’
    93% 85kwh models, after the 40kwh was dropped, on top of widely expected gains in density, it all makes a larger battery option almost a no-brainer.

    J. Straubel has indicated stationary storage production may be 15, of the 35 annual GWH output of the gigafactory.
    That amount is far from a distraction, and enough for the factory plans to pivot on. It opens an entirely different discussion, to go over residential vs. commercial needs for storage. At 15-30kwh achieving best economies in the residential market, it is hard to see 15 million kwh being sold. There is a potentially bigger market with utilities rounding their peaks, but we’re still in the old utility model, where it is profitable to build those (cleaner) “peaking” plants. That is a window to the argument they’ll make, anyway. So, 15gwh? Maybe a skew to the commercial property market, to avoid demand charges, or maybe land based wind, hydro, or nuke, where evening production is cheap, and could use an opportunity to arbitrage into daytime pricing. Whichever, it doesn’t add up quickly, and jives with many things taking longer than they thought.

    1. Josh says:

      I don’t doubt that Stationary Energy Storage products will be in Tesla’s future. I didn’t get the impression that the “hidden cards” were for 3 – 5 year projects.

      I think that these will be things that we see in 2015, if not sooner. Then again, I could be totally wrong.

      1. Mark H says:

        Mabey us solar users/Musk fans just want stationary from him so bad we keep raising our voice to make sure it does not go unnoticed.

        Good spin on the future that occupies us all Josh. Very enjoyable read. We missed your 2014 EV predictions this year. Hope you take a shot at 2015 numbers when the 2014 dust settles.

        1. Josh says:

          I totally dropped the ball on the predictions piece this year. Sorry about that. I was swamped the first half of the year.

          If there is still interest I can dig out my notes on it and do some mid-year impressions on sales. We could also take some shots at the fall, since it is typically the bigger half.

      2. pjwood says:

        I think you were correct to see it as a distraction, if we’re evaluating 2015. Tesla shouldn’t focus upon “see what’s possible” if it doesn’t scale with demand. That would be sort of what the Volt did. I like exhibition, but get the feeling sobriety in stationary storage goals could negatively impact the automotive side. The cheaper “first supply” will be re-purposed batteries. The demand for residential storage could be met by the other end of the ~4-5gwh yearly demand for car batteries. OTOH, the bulk of the auto fleet could have 4+ years before those batteries begin to come out of the cars, in numbers.

        I’d be less surprised by a large format cell, perhaps even a contract separate from Panasonic. Giga has been slow, looks smaller, not bigger, and his bluff maybe going the direction of a car company that sees more opportunity in a 27% margin. The luxury of electric drive has been Tesla’s sand box, to a point that is almost surprising when you look forward at the market. He could build unit sales, at the lower margin of supplied batteries, and achieve better profitability (and sales) in the end. That could make $/kwh look like a myopia, in hindsight. LG Chem could have more than one customer. Tesla has 2.7 billion, to make it happen.

    2. ESS (Energy Storage Systems) of 6-12 kWh are currently being produced for residential homes in Japan by Panasonic.net and 4R-Energy.com. SolarCity/Tesla ESS in field testing (California) has a 10 kWh capacity. http://www.solarcity.com/residential/energy-storage

      At the cost of an air conditioner, an ESS could shift all A/C energy use to off-peak rates. The savings for a residence on tiered rates would provide payback in just a few years. Add Solar PV to an ESS and energy usage patterns will evolve.

      1. Mike I says:

        I think an ESS makes a lot of sense for a customer that has a utility that is hostile to PV grid connection. You could easily design a system that has no feed-in, so no interconnect permission would be required. The design would be similar to an off-grid setup, but the solar would not have to be as big because the utility would be available to provide energy whenever the ESS was low. TOU arbitrage would still be possible by limiting usage during peak rates, but not to the extent that you could actually discharge into the grid at peak rates if you had Net Metering. If you have Net Metering then there is little need for ESS except for emergency backup.

        1. pjwood says:

          I’ve wondered what TOU gap makes arbitrage work? What is a good efficiency, charge and discharge, for an ESS? 60-70%?

          1. Martin lee says:

            80% is possible but the cost is not just the 20% of energy lost. You also have to pay the depreciation cost on the battery until prices come down this is larger than the 20% energy lost cost. If you can purchase a 10kw rated unit with 20kWh of storage capable of doing 3000 charge discharge cycles for $10,000.
            Then it will cost $3.33 to get each 18kWh out of the system or about 18 cents per kWh on top of the cost of energy input plus 20% extra for the losses. So if you could buy of peak for 10 cents you would need to be saving over 30 cents at peak prices to make it pay. In addition you are unlikely to fully use the system and therefore get a poorer payback. If you can get a system like this for $10,000 please let me know I might be interested.

    3. no comment says:

      keep in mind that the Model S is in the high end segment, so to those buyers, a bigger battery pack may well be a no-brainer. even at that, the price of the Model S is too low to be Tesla’s sole source of revenue.

      i’m not so sure about stationary storage; i mean the price would have to be quite low to be attractive i would think. you see a lot of promotions for battery backup systems for sump pumps, but i live in an area where the power is quite reliable, so battery backup would not be of interest to me.

      however, the idea of using such systems to overcome tiered energy pricing does seem interesting. but the payback would have to be quite a bit shorter than that for a solar panel system. since i doubt that there would be tax incentives to install such systems, i’m not sure what the real life payback would be.

    4. Delivery country 2% Germany and 1% Norway? There numbers are highly questionable.

  4. Anon says:

    Model X is almost out the door…

    I would expect significant design work to be fairly well along for Model III, and possibly, even a new smaller platform for a three door city car / Roadster.

    1. Mikael says:

      That is surely on the menu pretty soon. A citycar/Golf size platform which also works for the future new Roadster.

      The old Roadster is 395 cm long and 185 cm wide. The Golf 425 cm long and 180 cm wide. And the BMW i3 400 cm long 178 cm wide.
      So somewhere around that.

  5. Nicklas says:

    Perhaps they will finally deal with the soon-to-be-an-issue of automatic breaking etc… To get 5 stars from Euroncap nowadays a car must have such features, and for the Model S to receive anything but a 5 star rating is non-thinkable 🙂

    1. Josh says:

      I agree that is on the roadmap, but I think it will be lumped in with the AutoPilot suite.

      1. Mikael says:

        I’m sure it’s further along than on the road map.
        I highly doubt Tesla wants to get an poor/below average crash test and safety stamp on their car. 3 or 4 stars in the Euro NCAP will make it very hard for Elon to go around telling people about “the safest car in the world”.

        Unless you think the AutoPilot suit will be in the car within the next 12 months.

        1. Josh says:

          I think V1 of autopilot will debut on Model X. Once the sensor suite is on the vehicles it will continue to get updated and improve.

          I think that is part of the reason to hold off on the Model X details. They need to have it ready to produce on Model S once they announce it for Model X. Otherwise everyone will be holding off on their orders for the new tech.

          1. Mikael says:

            So basically this winter/next spring for V1.

            What do you expect of it then?

            I mean the Autopilot that Elon has been talking about is rather a 90-95% autonomous car which at a minimum would be able to take over all driving outside a city center.

            I wouldn’t call it Autopilot if it’s just the same safety assist and driver assist features that most automakers already have avaliable for their cars like auto braking, lane assist, being able to follow cars and to take over all queing driving for normal commuting and traffic jams.

            1. Josh says:

              He carefully crafted his statement on what autopilot would do. He said it would do 90% of the “miles driven”.

              I think this is eluding to highway on-ramp to highway off-ramp. I believe it will do lane holding, stop and go, lane changing, and tracking of the navigation. I do not think it will have the ability to handle stop signs, stop light intersections, or parking in V1.

              And there is the possibility that I am totally wrong…

  6. Anthony says:

    The cards Tesla is holding is future enhancements to their products, in the medium and long term.

    Tesla is proud to announce things that will make their current products more usable (supercharger enhancements) or future products that don’t directly compete with their existing products.

    But they don’t want to do anything to make their current reservation holders put off buying the car because of something that will come in the next year or two or three.

    Those things include auto-pilot systems, reducing weight, and other things you cant do to the car after its shipped to the customer.

    1. TomArt says:

      I agree.

  7. taser54 says:

    Musk’s tone seems to be simply offering the market an undisclosed reason to continue investing.

  8. Mikael says:

    I wonder if there might be a longer wheelbase Model S/X for the chinese market in the works. That could be the next “model” after the Model X gets out on the roads.

  9. Ocean Railroader says:

    I think batteries that are 10% to 20% more powerful then the existing batteries in the Model S could rewrite the rules a little bit for electric cars. In that when you look at a battery as huge as the Tesla’s battery back making it 20% smaller with the same range is a huge weight savings. While at the same time the battery having more range with the same mass could make things interesting.

    I really think batteries are 80% of what Tesla is.

    Personally I think Tesla releasing a 500 mile range model S next year or the year after could be it. In that I remember Elon Musk saying a few years ago that a 500 mile range car is possible without any battery break thoughts. Along with Tesla has been making model S sedans since 2012 and roadsters since 2008. During that time there has been small battery break thoughts of a few percents but nothing massive like in the 20% or 30%.

  10. ffbj says:

    Tesla had a lot of irons in the fire and with symbiotic relationship with Solar City and Space X, along with massive backing, it seems that Musk and companies could do some things that were really quite spectacular. Granting that most of you probably know more about specific ranges of what is possible though difficult, I will go for the more spectacular.
    Someone already the mentioned the electric, a
    distinct possibility, in maybe 8-10 years.
    1. 100 editions of the James Bond car, fully submersible and also able to drive on land, will be announced. The price: 1 million apiece.
    2. A Mission to Mars will be announced as a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic.
    3. A joint venture between SpaceX and Solar City will result in an solar array in orbit that will transmit power to the giga-factory.

    On a more serious note I think the Model S will be awd as both vehicles X and S are going to be built on the same line.

  11. ffbj says:

    electric aircraft.

  12. Mikael says:

    Wireless charging?

    1. Mikael says:

      Hey, my name! Should I sue for trademark infringement? 😛

      Is it you Zhan Baosheng and how did you find me? 😉

  13. Malcolm Scott says:

    I would add:

    1. Harmonisation of all charger couplings to a single standard – would be relatively easy to do in the non Japan/North America markets
    2. Extend the ‘free’ charging business model to AC charging for all EVs

    We have not yet seen how these two issues will play out, and what role for Tesla in that.

    Why? Because Elon Musk sees everything in the automotive market not supportive of EVs is the competitive threat. These issues are market barriers which Tesla has already played a hand. We are yet to see the final hand

  14. Ford Prefect says:

    What about commercial applications?

    1) Supply motors and batteries to truck and bus manufacturers. Tesla board members reportedly already have stakes in electric bus company Proterra… Why not build the motors for them?

    2) Wireless charging is a given at this point!

    3) Perhaps the Fremont plant retooling is more than just an upgrade to build Model X’s.