Electric Vehicles Tesla Model 3

Published on March 18th, 2017 | by Steve Hanley

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Tesla Model 3 Will Skip Beta Phase, Go Directly To “Early Release” Cars

March 18th, 2017 by  
 

Some of you may not have experience running an automotive production facility. If you did, you would know that new models start out as “alpha” cars. Those are usually prototypes and design exercises and are often used to help design the assembly line that will make the finished cars. The Tesla Model 3 alpha version was on display at the launch party a year ago and on rare occasions since then.

Tesla Model 3

After that come “beta” cars. They are built on a special pre-production assembly line. In addition to helping engineers figure out how to actually build the cars in a factory setting they are often used for real world test driving — going to Death Valley to see how they handle intense heat, driving to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to test cold weather operation, driving over dusty back roads and on long stretches of interstate highways.

Last week, during a conference call with investment bankers involved with the sale of more Tesla stock, Elon Musk made a surprising announcement. He said the analytic tools Tesla has developed will allow the company to skip the beta phase entirely for the Model 3. He said his people will be driving early release Tesla Model 3 cars within “one to two weeks.”

That off hand remarks reveals several things about the upcoming Model 3. First, early release cars are built on the actual assembly line that will be used for normal production. So the Model 3 assembly line is complete and ready to go. Second, there will be no beta test fleet plying the highways and byways of America looking for glitches, parts that don’t fit right, or other issues that would affect the initial build quality of the cars.

In fact, Musk hinted that because of those sophisticated analytics, the build quality of the Model 3 will be excellent starting with the very first cars. He says it will be much better than it was at the start of Model S or Model X production. (In the case of the Model X, that’s not saying much. The quality of the early cars was flat out awful.)

Once again, Musk is pushing the envelope and expecting results unheard of in the automotive industry. One potential drawback of such aggressive goals is that if any production issues are revealed by the early release cars, the company will have precious little time available to identify the issues and correct them in time to meet Musk’s expectations of full production for the Model 3 by the third quarter of this year.

Musk has one other interesting comment during the conference call. He mentioned almost as an aside that the company will switch over to the new format 2170 battery cells for the Model S and Model X by the end of the year. The 18650 battery cells for those cars are currently made by Panasonic in Japan and shipped to the United States. The 2170 cells are manufactured at the Gigafactory in Nevada.

Elon Musk always sets the bar high on the theory that even if his companies only achieve 85% of their targets, that’s still better than 100% of what other companies are striving for. You have to admire the man for his chutzpah, but that doesn’t mean you would enjoy working for him.

Source: Seeking Alpha 





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About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.



  • Eco Logical

    Will 2170 cells in the Model S and X later this year will bring the price down?

    • Joe Viocoe

      Might bring the cost down. But Tesla will likely just keep their same pricing, and just increase their margins.

    • Steve Hanley

      The 2170 cells have a higher energy density, supposedly — more power in the same space or the same power in less space. The analogy, although it may not be exact, is that the Powerwall and Powerpack energy storage products doubled in capacity once the switch from 18650 cells was made. Not saying that will happen with car batteries but it gives you some idea what is possible.

      • Eco Logical

        Powerpack 2 decreased to $250/kWh and Powerwall 2 doubled capacity for a fractional cost increase, both use the 2170 cell … the Model 3 battery using the 2170 is significantly lower $/kWh … there’s no doubt in my mind that the Model S/X battery costs will be lower using the 2170 cell, it’s just a question of whether Tesla passes those savings on to buyers or, as Joe Viocoe says, “increases their margins”!

  • Marc P

    As usual, Tesla and Mr Musk are rolling the dice. Let’s just hope it works out !

    • roseland67

      Uber risky on Tesla’s part,

      If they find a problem “After” production begins and a recall is necassary, who is going to fix them, where and how long will it take?

      • Steve Hanley

        That’s the question that separates the bulls from the bears among investors.

    • bioburner

      I’m gonna say “No Thanks” to one of their cars for now anyways. I had a 2011 Leaf and I will not be another Beta tester for anybody.
      I’m not sure skipping the “Beta” phase is a good idea. Other well established car companies are still doing beta testing so I’m thinking it might be more important than thought.

  • HG Wells

    One of the main reasons that they can go ahead and do this is that the line the model three will be made on is not making any other car at this time.

    IE there developing the line at the same time they are finalizing the car. Your normal car company rarely has the situation. Normally a new car has to be added to an existing line. The fact that it’s a brand-new line is a big benefit for Tesla.

    Also the 2170 cells are likely to be able to take a much faster charge than the existing ones. This would be due primarily to a chemistry change, but also due to pack changes.

    Looking forward to my model three late this fall. I was in line at 430 in the morning!

  • LAKIN

    Motoring writers, (journalists in general, perhaps) have a huge regard for their own understanding of, seemingly, every field of endeavour. Steve, you’re certainly not alone in your vaguely derisive attitude to Tesla’s re-writing of the rule book.

    Frankly, I don’t know what the outcome will be. However, I’m sure glad we don’t still make cars the way they did in the 1920s – or the 1990s for that matter.

    Changes are part and parcel of any industry. Why are so many commentators/analysts so hung up on the absolute necessity of “beta” cars? I’ve checked my bible and have failed to find any reference that states the creation of “beta” cars is mandated by God.

    Tesla makes mistakes, and Elon Musk is perfectly comfortable recognizing them and moving on. Unlike most of us, he doesn’t give up trying to improve, and as a result, has already virtually turned the car industry on it’s head.

    Do you think for a moment, all the world’s major car companies would be planning to spend billions of dollars on EV development if it weren’t for Elon Musk’s “silly” ideas? Every step of the way, writers like you have ridiculed almost everything he’s done.

  • BernardP

    Tesla will be doing what software companies have been doing : make early customers beta testers.

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