In its latest financial report, Tesla Motors again delayed the Model X SUV, which the company attributes to wanting to build the best machine it can. Analysts have speculated that the falcon-wing doors could be one cause for the delay of the Tesla Model X, but what if it’s SUV’s promised towing capacity that is holding things up?
The Model X is a unique vehicle, the first all-electric production SUV, offering all-wheel drive and a unique rear door setup that truly feels truly futuristic. Musk has also promised an increased focus on the wants and needs of women in an effort to appeal to the fairer sex. But as far as I know, nobody has offered an electric vehicle with an explicit towing capacity. Tesla warns against using the Model S to tow (though intrepid owners have already done so), though it’s not so much the ability to tow, as much as balancing payload with range.
The Dual Motor Model S weighs close to 5,000 pounds, and I’m doubtful the Model X will be the least bit lighter. In my opinion, the minimum useful towing capacity for any utility vehicle has got to be 3,000 pounds; that allows you to haul a boat, a small car, or even a camper. But adding 60% more weight is going to dramatically impact the range, and when you’re trying to take a family vacation to the middle of nowhere, every mile starts to count. This issue could be a lot more divisive than making the third row seating an add-on option.
So Tesla has to balance the usefulness of the towing capacity with the impact on range. What good is the ability to haul 5,000 pounds if your range is reduced to just 100 miles? For putzing around town that’s fine, but if you want to take a family camping trip in the mountains, you’re outta luck. That said, Tesla’s rollout of more “destination charging” stations could easily fix that.
Please note that this is pure conjecture on my part; Tesla says its Dual Motor all-wheel drive system actually increases efficiency despite the extra weight of adding a second motor. But barring a larger battery option or a big jump in energy density, the Model X can at best hope for the same 275 mile range of the Dual Motor Model S85. Hook up a few thousand pounds worth of whatever though, and even a conservative 20% hit to the estimated range means just over 200 miles worth of driving before one needs to plug in.
There might also be issues with the motor regeneration as enginers work on tweaking the system to operate at different resistance levels depending on the payload. The extra weight could also play havoc with the air suspension system. With over 20,000 reservations and counting, there’s a lot of pressure on Elon Musk to deliver another smash hit in the wake of the Model S.
With Tesla treading into unmarked territory, something as innocuous as the towing capacity could be holding up this hotly-anticipated electric SUV.