Tesla’s planned mass-market EV, which represents the culmination of Elon Musk’s grand plan to bring electric vehicles into the mainstream, is still shrouded in mystery. We’ve been told that it will be about 20 percent smaller than the Model S, that it will be priced around $35,000, that it is expected to go on sale in late 2016, and that it will not suck. We also now know that it will not be called Model E.
This week, Chris Porritt, Tesla’s VP of Engineering, trickled out another tantalizing tidbit or two. In an interview with Autocar, Porritt said that the new model will be constructed from “appropriate materials,” and won’t be based on the same all-aluminum platform as the Model S.
“I expect there will be very little carry-over,” said Porritt. “We’ve got to be cost-effective. We can’t use aluminum for all the components.” As carbon fiber is even more expensive than aluminum, this suggests that the Model Formerly Known as E will use mostly steel (unless Tesla has secretly developed some new miracle material).
Porritt said that the new model will be “realistically” priced to compete with such models as the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series, and that the price of batteries would be a critical factor in the design of the new model. “Building the Gigafactory will help make battery manufacturing more cost-effective,” he said.
Porritt sounded critical of EVs like the LEAF that are designed to stand out visually from the ICE herd. “People don’t want to look eccentric. They want to have pride in their car’s looks. Our biggest advocates are our customers,” he said.