Tesla says its battery innovations will deliver its goal of a $25,000 mass market electric car

Tesla held its ‘Battery Day’ event on Tuesday to discuss a variety of innovations it has developed and is pursuing in battery technology for its vehicles. At the event, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino detailed new anode and cathode technology it’s working on, as well as materials science, in-house mining operations and manufacturing improvements it’s developing to make more more affordable, sustainable batteries – and they said that taken together, these should allow them to make an electric vehicle available to consumers at the $25,000 price point.

“We’re confident we can make a very, very compelling $25,000 electric vehicle, that’s also fully autonomous,” Musk said. “And when you think about the $25,000 price point you have to consider how much less expensive it is to own an electric vehicle. So actually, it becomes even more affordable at that $25,000 price point.”

This isn’t the first time that Musk has talked about the $25,000 price point for a Tesla car: Two years ago in August 2018, he said that he believed the company would be able to reach that target price point in roughly three years. Two years on, it seems like the goal posts have been pushed out again – fairly standard for an Elon-generated timeline – since Musk and Baglino acknowledged that it would be another two or three years before the company could realize the technologies it presented in sufficient quantities to be produced effectively at scale.

Tesla detailed a new, tablets battery cell design that would help it achieve its goal of reaching 10 to 20 terawatts of global battery production capacity per year. The design offers five times the energy density of the existing cells it uses, as well as six times the power and an overall 16% improvement in range for vehicles in which it’s used.

Elon Musk says Tesla will ‘one day’ produce ‘super efficient home HVAC’ with HEPA filtering

Elon Musk has previously touted the ‘Bioweapon Defense Mode’ boasted by Tesla’s vehicles, which are designed to provide excellent air quality inside the car even in the face of disastrous conditions without, thanks in part to high-efficiency HEPA air filtration. Now, Musk has said on Twitter that he hopes to one day provide similar air filtration along with home HVAC systems.

Tesla, while primarily an automaker, is also already in the business of home energy and power generation, thanks to its acquisition of SolarCity, its current production of solar roofing products, and its business building Tesla batteries for storage of power generated from green sources at home. While it hasn’t yet seemed to make any moves to enter into any other parts of home building or infrastructure, HVAC systems actually would be a logical extension of its business, since they represent a significant part of the overall energy consumption of a home, depending on its heating and cooling sources.

Boosting home HVAC efficiency would have the added benefit of making Tesla’s other home energy products more appealing to consumers, since it would presumably help make it easier to achieve true off-grid (or near off-grid) self-sufficiency.

As for the company’s HEPA filtration, despite the jokey name, Tesla actually takes ‘Bioweapon Defense Mode’ very seriously. In a blog post in 2016, it detailed what went into the system’s design, along with testing data to back up its claims of a HEPA filter that’s “ten times more efficient than standard automotive filters.” While Tesla doesn’t cited wildfires in that post, it does list “California freeways during rush hour, smelly marshes, cow pastures in the Central Valley of California, and major cities in China” in terms of challenges it wanted it to to be able to handle.

Many experts are predicting that the wildfires we’re currently seeing devastating large portions of the west coast of the U.S. will only get worse as environmental conditions continue to suffer the impact of climate change. Given that, and given Tesla’s larger business goals of offering a range of products that neutralize or reduce the ecological impact of its customers, more efficient and effective home HVAC products don’t seem that far outside its operational expertise.

Radio Flyer teams up with Tesla to launch a tyke-sized Tesla Model Y

If, like me, you can’t afford a full-sized Tesla because your life has been a series of bad investments (one day my early Fyre Festival backing will pay off) then Radio Flyer’s newest product might be just the thing for you. It’s a scaled down Model Y, designed for use by kids aged 18 months to four years old – but I can play pretend and yell ‘vroooommm’ just as well, if not better, than they can.

Dubbed ‘My First Model Y,’ this is a collaborative effort between the Tesla Design Studio and Radio Flyer’s product team. It’s a ride-on version, which is not true of the standard Model Y, and it includes a honking horn, as well as black induction wheels (an upgrade option on the real car) and a functional steering wheel, with a price point of $99. There’s only one trim level.

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Unlike the first collaboration between Radio Flyer and Tesla, the Tesla Model S for Kids, this one doesn’t have a built-in battery – it requires kid power to function. That means a lot more affordability, and makes it suitable for much younger kids.

I might pick up one of these instead of just continuing to scrawl “Tesla” in block letters on the rear window of my 1998 Toyota Camry in grease pencil.

The Hummer EV is shaping up to be GM’s electric answer to the Ford Bronco and Tesla Cybertruck

The video below contains the first glimpse at the upcoming electric GMC Hummer. The preview video is short, full of nonsense buzzwords, but still telling. It’s clear GM identified two main competitors against the upcoming Hummer: The Ford Bronco and Tesla Cybertruck.

The Hummer EV was announced pre-COVID 19 during the Super Bowl. At the time, GM promised it would feature 1,000 HP from the electric powertrain. Since then, little has been released about the upcoming vehicle, though GM maintains it’s still on track for production in the fall of 2021.

The video released today sports a handful of expected features and capabilities. Interestingly enough, these features are on both sides of the motoring spectrum. If categorized, they fall into two groups: on-road thrills and off-roading adventure. The video paints a clear picture: GM is targeting the Hummer EV against the Tesla Cybertruck and the Ford Bronco — both vehicles that are getting a lot of attention because of their capabilities and design.

For positioning against the Cybertruck, GM is touting the Hummer EV’s power of 1,000 HP and 11,500 lb-ft of torque (though this number is derived in a different fashion than usual). It’s also saying the massive truck can hit 60 mph in 3 seconds, which is in the same realm as the top sports cars. Lastly, the video teaser stated the Hummer EV has an Adrenaline Mode, which is easy to assume is similar to Tesla’s Ludicrous mode, along with improved self-driving capability.

For the Bronco, GM is showing the Hummer EV’s off-roading features, including a so-called Open Air Infinity Roof and Modular Sky Panels, which is likely similar to the Bronco’s expansive removable roof. Even more telling is the Crab Mode mentioned in the video. Crab Mode is likely a high-torque rock crawling mode for when bouldering off-road. With the crazy amount of torque available, the Hummer EV will probably be able to crawl up impressive inclines.

Pricing and exact availability have yet to be announced, and the same can be said about the Tesla Cybertruck. And don’t forget about the upcoming electric Ford F-150. There’s a war of the electric pickup coming, and I’m here for it.

Elon Musk says Tesla is open to licensing Autopilot, supplying powertrains and batteries to other automakers

Tesla CEO Elon Musk noted on Twitter on Tuesday night that the automaker would be “open to licensing software and supplying powertrains & batteries” to other automakers. Musk added that that would even include Autopilot, the advanced driver assistance software that Tesla offers to provide intelligent cruise control in a number of different driving scenarios.

Musk was addressing a Teslerati article about how German automakers are looking to close the technology gap between themselves and Tesla when it comes to producing EVs. Volkswagen Chairman Herbert Diess has in past comments expressed admiration for Musk and Tesla’s accomplishments on multiple occasions.

VW has created its own EV platform, which it intends to use as the base for a number of different electric cars, ranging from sport sedans to SUVs. The company is also openly pursuing licensing its MEB platform to other automakers, and struck such a deal with Ford last July for the American automaker’s European business.

Musk says that Tesla’s interest in licensing stems from its underlying goal, which is “to accelerate sustainable energy, not crush competitors” according to his tweet. This isn’t the first time the automaker has indicated a willingness to be more open in pursuit of that goal, either: In 2014, Musk penned a blog post announcing that Tesla would be making its intellectual property freely available to “anyone who, in good faith, wants to use [its] technology.”

Of course, that hasn’t stopped Tesla from taking aim at potential competitors via legal action on occasion – it filed suit against electric automaker Rivian and four of its former employees last week, alleging theft of trade secrets and poaching key talent.

A platform licensing or supplier relationship would be an entirely different arrangement, of course, and one with plenty of precedent in the automaker industry. Nor would it necessarily negatively impact Tesla’s own auto sales, since the company offers a number of other selling points above and beyond its underlying powertrain and battery tech.

At the time of Volkswagen’s announcement, the German automaker said it expects it could make up to $20 billion in revenue through the MEB deal with Ford, with a significant chunk of that coming from MEB parts and components supply. Tesla could realize similar gains but perhaps amplified globally, especially if it can ramp powertrain and battery production beyond the capacity needs of its own vehicle demand capacity.

Tesla’s U.S.-made Model 3 vehicles now come equipped with wireless charging, USB-C ports

Tesla Model 3 vehicles produced at its Fremont, Calif. factory will reportedly come standard with a wireless charging pad and USB-C ports, upgrades that were first spotted by Drive Tesla Canada.

Electrek also reported on the changes.

The upgrades now put U.S.-made Model 3s on par with the same vehicles made at Tesla’s factory in China.

The wireless phone charger and USB-C ports first appeared in the newer Model Y, which customers began to receive in March. Tesla has since taken steps to bring some of these new Model Y features into the older Model 3. The upgrades initially showed up in vehicles assembled in China. Drive Tesla Canada said the upgrades became standard in Model 3 vehicles assembled after June 4.

Tesla still offers a $125 upgrade (seen below) for those who own pre-June 4 2020 Model 3 vehicles. Aftermarket company Jeda Products also sells a Qi wireless phone charger for about $99.

tesla wireless charging pad

Image Credits: Tesla

The upgrades are likely part of Tesla’s aim to make its automotive assembly more efficient as well as make its vehicles more attractive to potential customers who have slowed purchases during COVID-19 pandemic.

Tesla delivered 88,400 vehicles in the first quarter, beating most analysts expectations despite a 21% decrease from the previous quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic put downward pressure on demand and created logistical challenges. Tesla produced 103,000 electric vehicles in the first quarter, about 2% lower than the previous period.

COVID-19 disrupted the supply chain and global sales in China and Europe in the first quarter, which ended March 31. The pandemic spread its economic gloom to the U.S. towards the end of the first quarter, and then dug in its heels in the second period. Tesla typically reports quarter production and delivery figures a few days after the end of the quarter. The second quarter ends June 30.

Elon Musk: the Tesla Cybertruck isn’t getting any smaller

In the days and weeks after Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed the cybertruck — a post-apocalyptic inspired vehicle made of cold-rolled steel — there was a lot of speculation about whether it would be smaller once it actually made it to market.

Production of the Cybertruck is still a long ways off. There isn’t even a factory to build the all-electric truck yet. However, Musk did provide some clarification Saturday on its size. In a tweet, Musk wrote “Reviewed design with Franz last night. Even 3% smaller is too small. Will be pretty much the same size. We’ll probably do a smaller, tight world truck at some point.” (Musk was referring to Tesla’s head of design Franz von Holzhausen. And we assume Musk meant to write “light” not “tight” truck.)

The change is important to note since he told Jay Leno that the vehicle is actually 5% too big, according to a teaser video promoting an upcoming episode of Jay Leno’s Garage that will air Wednesday on CNBC. “If we just take all of the proportions and drop them by 5%,” he told Leno, later adding “it has to fit into a normal garage.”

Musk had previously said the company could probably reduce the width of the cybertruck by an inch and “maybe reduce length by 6-plus inches without losing on utility or esthetics.”

Tesla hasn’t shared the dimensions of the vehicle. And TechCrunch failed to bring a measuring tape at the launch. (Lesson learned).

In the past two months, Musk has provided a few other updates around the cybertruck via Twitter, noting that the company is increasing dynamic air suspension travel for better off-roading and that it “will float for awhile,” a claim he didn’t explain further.

Tesla said it will offer three variants of the cybertruck. The cheapest version, a single motor and rear-wheel drive model, will cost $39,900, have a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and more than 250 miles of range, according to specs on its website. The middle version will be a dual-motor all-wheel drive, have a towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds and be able to travel more than 300 miles on a single charge. The dual motor AWD model is priced at $49,900.

The third version will have three electric motors and all-wheel drive, a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and battery range of more than 500 miles. This version, known as “tri motor,” is priced at $69,900.

Elon Musk just put a new person in charge of production at Tesla’s Fremont factory

On the same day that Elon Musk defied local regulations and reopened Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, the CEO put a new person in charge of production.

Musk named Richard Miller, who was director of paint operations at Tesla, to head of production at the factory, according to an internal email sent to employees Monday and viewed by TechCrunch. It appears that Miller replaces Jatinder Dhillon, who was the company’s manufacturing director. CNBC reported in March that Dhillon had left the company, although his LinkedIn profile still shows he is at the company and in the same role.

An email has been sent to Musk and Tesla for comment.

“Due to excellent performance as head of paint operations in Fremont, Richard Miller is hereby promoted to overall head of Fremont Production. Congratulations!,” the email reads.

The promotion comes at a chaotic moment for Musk and Tesla. Production at the company’s Fremont factory — where its electric vehicles are assembled — has been suspended since March 23 due to stay-at-home orders issued by Alameda County and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Musk restarted production Monday in direct conflict with county orders.

Tesla had planned to bring back about 30% of its factory workers May 8 as part of its reopening plan, after Newsom issued new guidance that would allow manufacturers to resume operations. However, the governor’s guidance included a warning that local governments could keep more restrictive rules in place. Alameda County, along with several other Bay Area counties and cities, have extended the stay-at-home orders through the end of May. The orders were revised and did ease some of the restrictions. However, it did not lift the order for manufacturing.

Musk has been at war with Alameda County, specifically aiming his ire at health officials, ever since the order was extended. Over the weekend, he threatened to sue and pull operations out of California. Tesla filed a lawsuit later that day against Alameda County seeking injunctive relief.

On Monday, Musk escalated matters further and announced on Twitter that he had restarted production.

Musk wrote he would  “be on the line,” a reference to the assembly line at the factory where Tesla makes the Model X, Model S, Model 3 and Model Y. He added “if anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

Alameda County issued a statement Monday noting

Elon Musk restarts Tesla factory in defiance of county orders

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Monday that the company’s factory in Fremont, California is open and has restarted production despite a stay-at-home order issued by Alameda County.

Musk said in tweet Monday afternoon that he will “be on the line,” a reference to the assembly line at the factory where Tesla makes the Model X, Model S, Model 3 and Model Y. He added “if anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

Musk’s move follows days of public venting on Twitter as well as a lawsuit — efforts that are all aimed at pressuring Alameda County officials to allow the company to reopen its factory.

Officials at the county, the city of Fremont, and Fremont Police Department, which has jurisdiction on this, are continuing to negotiate with Tesla, Sgt. Ray Kelly, public information officer with Alameda County Sheriff’s Department told TechCrunch.

Tesla and Elon Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

Tesla filed a lawsuit Saturday against Alameda County seeking injunctive relief, an effort to invalidate orders that have prevented the automaker from reopening. Later that evening, Tesla issued a back to work plan, a 37-page document that outlines how it intends to restart production while keeping employees safe and preventing the potential spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

Tesla had planned to bring back about 30% of its factory workers Friday as part of its reopening plan, after California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new guidance that would allow manufacturers to resume operations. However, the governor’s guidance included a warning that local governments could keep more restrictive rules in place. Alameda County, along with several other Bay Area counties and cities, last week extended the stay-at-home orders through the end of May. The orders were revised and did ease some of the restrictions. However, it did not lift the order for manufacturing.

On Monday, Newsom issued support for Tesla and Musk during his daily COVID-19 briefing, saying that he believes the issue between Alameda County and the company will be resolved in the next few days.

“I have long been a strong advocate and supporter early adopter, the technology, I have not only known that company, but I’ve known its founder for many, many years,” Newsom said. “I have great reverence for their technology for their innovative spirit, for their leadership, and I have great expectations that we can work through at the county level issue with this particular county and this company in the next number of days.”

Elon Musk threatens to pull Tesla operations out of California and into Texas or Nevada

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Saturday the company will file a lawsuit against Alameda County and threatened to move its headquarters and future programs to Texas or Nevada immediately, escalating a fight between the company and health officials over whether its factory in Fremont can reopen.

Tesla had planned to bring back about 30% of its factory workers Friday as part of its reopening plan, defying Alameda County’s stay-at-home order.

TechCrunch has reached out to Elon Musk directly. We will update the story if he responds.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new guidance Thursday that allowed manufacturers to resume operations. The guidance won praise from Musk, who later sent an internal email to employees about plans to reopen based on the governor’s revised order. However, the governor’s guidance included a warning that local governments could keep more restrictive rules in place. Alameda County, along with several other Bay Area counties and cities, last week extended the stay-at-home orders through the end of May. The orders were revised and did ease some of the restrictions. However, it did not lift the order for manufacturing.

On Friday, the Alameda County Health Department said Tesla had not been given “the green light” to reopen and said if the company did, it would be out of compliance with the order.

In the tweet, Musk said Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. In a later tweet, he also encouraged shareholders to file a lawsuit against the county.

“The unelected & ignorant “Interim Health Officer” of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President and our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!,” the tweet said. He followed up with another tweet claiming that Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas or Nevada immediately.

“If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependent on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA,” Musk wrote.

Tesla has operations in Nevada; it doesn’t in Texas. The company’s massive battery factory – known as Gigafactory 1 — is located in Sparks, Nevada. Tesla is seeking out a new location to build a new U.S. gigafactory that will produce the Cybertruck and Model Y crossover. Some have speculated that Texas is a top pick.

Sources have told TechCrunch that Tesla is in talks with Nashville officials to locate a factory there that will produce the Cybertruck and Model Y crossover.

“Scouting locations for Cybertruck Gigafactory. Will be central USA,” Musk tweeted in March. He added that the factory would be used to produce Model Y crossovers for the East Coast market. The first Model Y vehicles are being produced at its plant in Fremont.