The cat is out of the bag. Elon Musk confirmed via Twitter that a future Tesla Minibus will be built on a Model X chassis. How this came to light is interesting. Last week, Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik picked up on something Elon Musk said in his Master Plan, Part Deux:
“With the advent of autonomy, it will probably make sense to shrink the size of buses and transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager.
Traffic congestion would improve due to increased passenger areal density by eliminating the center aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways, and matching acceleration and braking to other vehicles, thus avoiding the inertial impedance to smooth traffic flow of traditional heavy buses.
“It would also take people all the way to their destination. Fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops would serve those who don’t have a phone. Design accommodates wheelchairs, strollers and bikes.”
Torchinsky thought about that and decided the Model X would make the perfect platform for just such a minibus. So he penned a concept sketch and included it in a Jalopnik article. In his view, the Tesla could be a worthy successor to the original Volkswagen Kombi/Transporter so beloved by the Woodstock Generation. Then this happened:
Some good guessing by @Jalopnik. The Tesla Minibus will be built on a Model X chassis. People density potential is surprisingly high.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 29, 2016
Now we know Tesla has plans to build a minibus but we don’t know when. If it waits until fully autonomous vehicles get the blessing of state and federal regulators, it could be years away from production. But if Tesla decides to bring it to market sooner as a people mover for those who need maximum carrying capacity, it could well have a best seller on its hands.
Elon is known to strongly dislike the sliding side doors common on most minivans, but perhaps a minibus with sliding doors could be manufactured for less money than the one with falcon wing doors? The difference in mechanical complexity between the two systems must be substantial.
The fact that Elon acknowledged the Minibus idea on Twitter indicates it has gotten more than passing consideration internally. Could this be the much anticipated Model Y?
Photo credit: Jason Torchinsky