Tesla Model E Will Be 20% Smaller, Have 48 kWh Battery


tesla-robots-2Elon Musk gave new details on the upcoming Tesla Model E, which will be 20% smaller than the Model S and have a 48 kWh battery good for 200 miles. But can Elon really make a mass-market, 200-mile electric car that costs just $35,000?

That’s the hard part, though Musk has remained confident that he can deliver an affordable electric car with a 200-mile driving range. These new details suggest that the Tesla Model E will be all the way around 20% smaller than the Model S, backing up my assertion that a recent study claiming the Model E will be close to $50,000 is flawed. The Tesla Model S is a big car all the way around, and lopping off 20% of it results in some sizable savings, primarily in terms of weight.

The 60 kWh Model S weighs in at a formidable 4,464 lbs, while the 85 kWh Model S comes in at an even heftier 4,647 pounds, a difference of about 200 pounds. Figure another 200 or so pounds of weight loss dropping the battery down to just 48 kWh, and you’ve already got a nice chunk of weight savings off of a battery estimated to weigh between 1,300 and 1,500 pounds.

That said, the Model E is likely to still come in at or close to 4,000 pounds, even if it really is 20% smaller than the Model S. That figure probably has more to do with the size, rather than the weight of the Model E, with a smaller cabin, front, and rear-end. It also stands to reason that the Model E could even be a front-driver, which help make it even smaller. Following up one of the best cars ever built, electric or otherwise, won’t be easy though.

As far as the battery pack is concerned, a 48 kWh pack should theoretically be good for at least 150 miles of driving with today’s technology. Give Tesla another few years (and the proposed billion-dollar Gigafactory), and battery prices should go down even as the technology continues to improve, just in time for the Tesla Model E to make its long-awaited debut.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • If the Cd is down to about what the EV1 was (~0.20) and with free wheel coasting with driver controlled regen rate, the consumption could be close to what the EV1 was (~160Wh/mile) and the range with a 48kWh pack would be as high as 300 miles.

    If Tesla can come close to the Illuminati Motor Works ‘Seven’ – which has consumption of just ~129Wh/mile @ ~60mph, then the range could be as high as 370 miles. ‘7’ is a 4 seat 2,900 pound X-Prize car that has “only” a 33kWh lithium (CALB) pack that has a range 220+ miles (@ 60-70mph w/ ~10% charge left). It also accelerates 0-60mph <6.5s. It has ~92% plug-to-wheel efficiency, and free wheel coasting, with driver switchable regen, and a Cd <0.23.

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  • lad76

    Over the last three years, Nissan was in a good position to dominate the small sedan EV marketplace; but, has chosen, for their own reasons, not to take the risk over the last three years. I believe moving so slow has been a mistake because the other car companies have pretty much caught up. They should have gone “all in” as Tesla has done.

    • egogg

      Over the last 3 years, Nissan has alienated would-be EV buyers and artificially strangled production of EVs. Tesla was right: EVs and ICE vehicles don’t belong on the same showroom floor, because salespeople have interests in pushing people toward the tried-and-true.

    • Nissan has sold more than 100,000 of its Leaf EVs already, which is a huge figure for a car that many, including many people at GM, Ford, etc., said wouldn’t have a market at all.

    • jeffhre

      Seems like a fairly large sized risk to me. Billions in development and engineering costs. More billions in procurement, production and marketing.

    • Red Sage

      I agree. Nissan got six times as much money from the EPA as Tesla Motors. Ford got twelve times as much money. Nissan then released a modified Versa, while Ford electrified a gutted Focus. Meanwhile, Tesla built a new car from the ground up using a fraction of the funds. As a longtime fan of Chevrolet and Honda, I am really confused that each of them is more interested in hybrid gasoline electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles instead of battery electrics.

  • Raster

    The author opines, “It also stands to reason that the Model E could even be a front-driver, which help make it even smaller.”.
    I disagree. That’s petrol thinking with large engines and transverse transmissions and gear boxes with all the junk that comes with front wheel drive. The Tesla S motor is already the size of a watermelon. Fits right in line with the rear wheels. No need for complicated FWD.

    • jeffhre

      Oh what the…that is exactly the comment I scrolled here to make – except that I was going to include that in the Model S/Roadster the watermelon sized motor is about 100+ lbs / 75 lbs.

    • Red Sage

      Precisely. The Tesla Motors Generation III vehicle will target the BMW 3-Series. So it will be rear-wheel-drive standard, with a higher priced all-wheel-drive version.

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  • Sufiy

    Tesla Model E will be the real catalyst to the electric Cars industry

    Tesla Battery Gigafactory, Lithium Materials And Lithium Miners

    Time is to study the Tesla Gigafactory plans and its implications for the Lithium materials industry and Lithium miners. Euro Pacific has produced a very good report on the Lithium industry last summer. Now you should adjust Lithium demand estimates with Tesla Gigafactory news and LG Chem plans for the battery factory to be built in China.


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  • Simon

    I read your article yesterday arguing that the $50K price estimate was flawed, and while I agree that Elon probably isn’t floating his $35K number lightly, I think it’s important to note that most of the savings will probably come from mass production and not size reduction.

    Engineering a modern vehicle and setting up a manufacturing line are both fantastically expensive ventures that need to be amortized over a sizable production run if the unit cost of the vehicle is to fall in a reasonable range. That’s why limited-run vehicles tend to all cost about the same whether they’re exclusive performance machines like the Local Motors Rally Fighter or pioneering (but also dorky) vehicles like the Urbee and the VW XL1. In my opinion the Model S is a clever product because it justifies it’s small-batch price with luxury features, but the Model E will only be sustainably-priced at $35K if Musk can move real volume. Hopefully he’ll get a carbon tax to help him out.

    The difference in material costs between a Model E, Model S, or even Model X-sized chassis is actually quite small; but the general public closely associates size with value, which is why automakers are eager to push crossovers and SUVs since they can command a higher price for the same engineering work, and thus a higher margin.

    *Incidentally, the strictures of FMVSS are also the reason why all modern cars have approximately equivalent designs, why none of the Automotive X-prize cars will ever see production, and why Jason Fagone’s thesis in Ingenious is a poetic fantasy.

    **Also, your post on Gas2 yesterday has an extra zero in Tesla’s current per-car margin.

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  • Joe

    He said the battery would be 80% of the size. That is not the same as saying the battery will store 80% of the energy. To assume no improvement in energy density after 5 years is wrong headed IMO. Until Tesla states explicitly that the base Model E will have a 48kWh battery we should not be stating that it does as if it were a known fact.

    • Red Sage

      Precisely. They looked at the discussion of a $70,000 Model S, and the notation of a $35,000 Generation III car, presumed that a ‘20% smaller’ battery would be relative to the Model S 60, multiplied 60 kWh by 0.8 and got 48 kWh. That isn’t what Elon Musk said at all. I think that nothing less than a 60 kWh battery pack will be used in any Tesla Motors product going forward.

  • Red Sage

    The Tesla Motors Generation III vehicle will not be a tiny, cramped, 2+2, commuter vehicle designed to compete with the likes of a Fiat 500e, Nisan Leaf, or Ford Focus Electric. It’s target for sophistication and sports appeal will be the BMW 3-Series vehicles. Look at what those are capable of doing and expect even the lowliest Tesla Model E to match and surpass the BMW 335i as a minimal benchmark.

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