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In just a few weeks, Tesla’s first mass-produced vehicle (Model S) will be celebrating 7 years on the road. Back in June 2012, people would scoff when you would mention Tesla, “Who’s going to buy an electric car, let alone a luxury electric car??”
A lot has changed since then. The company has sold over 260,000 Model S’ globally since its debut and it has yet to be dethroned as the longest-range electric vehicle on the road. After analysts and naysayers starting paying attention to Tesla in late 2012 (hint: Model S was Motor Trend Car of the Year in 2012), another narrative took shape, The Germans will squash these California guys, just wait a few years.
So here we are, 7 years later. Audi has just released its first real EV, the e-tron, and Mercedes is in the process of launching their counterpart, the EQC, BMW is nowhere to be found. While the e-tron and the EQC are meaningful ploys to keep Audi and Mercedes customers from fleeing to Tesla, they seem underwhelming and late. The e-tron is equipped with a massive 95 kWh battery, but only erks out 204-miles of EPA range, and the EQC is estimated to land somewhere in between 200-220 miles with an 80 kWh battery.
Let’s be clear, no one is a bigger fan of automakers entering the EV space. Audi’s e-tron should be considered an overture for the upcoming Audi and Porsche co-developed electric vehicles, which will sport one of the first 800V systems, longer range, and more efficient motors. But one thing is clear here, Tesla is still miles and years ahead of the Germans. Porsche’s upcoming Taycan would have been quite competitive with the 2018 Model S, but with the Model S’s latest platform update sporting 370-miles out of a 100 kWh battery, Tesla’s lead becomes more and more apparent. Things haven’t panned out as 2013 wall street envisioned.
Batteries, Motors, Capacity, and more!
Tesla’s latest range increases are certainly impressive, but it’s important to know where these increases are coming from: motor technology. Tesla has been developing their own motors for 15 years and has a massive lead on existing OEMs and suppliers. From the outside, Tesla’s famed Gigafactory with Panasonic makes it appear as though their battery-cells are the secret sauce, but battery suppliers have been working on lithium-ion technology far longer than Tesla. To find where Tesla is truly leading with battery technology turn to the company’s thermal management systems and packaging of the cells. While Tesla’s cells aren’t the most exciting things on earth (modified-2170 cells), their early investment into production capabilities has allowed them to lower costs and scale battery production in conjunction with vehicle demand.
Tesla’s been ahead of the game since the start and is positioned to stay ahead for many years. Do you think the German automakers or others will ever catch up to Tesla? If so, when and who? Let me know in the comments.