Tesla Version 4???

Tesla doesn’t follow normal model year cycles, and instead continuously improves their cars on a weekly basis.  Most of these improvements are “under the hood” (structural part changes resulting in reduced weight, reduced complexity, decreased noise, improved reliability, lower cost, etc.,), while others are noticeable but relatively minor (e.g. new door switch, new sunvisor, etc.,). These improvements are rolled out without much fanfare.  Still, there are periodic major updates that require a pause in production for factory retooling, and justify either a press release or a live event.  To date, there have been 3 such major updates since the launch of the Model S which Tesla (or at least Elon Musk on the most recent earnings conference call) informally designates as “Versions”:

  • Version 1: Original Model S
  • Version 2: Model S with Dual Motor AWD and Autopilot Hardware 1
  • Version 3: Model X and Refreshed Fascia Model S
  • Version 4: Model S, Model X, and Model 3 with Autopilot Hardware 2

While the differences between these Versions are clear to Tesla enthusiasts, it may not be clear to prospective buyers especially in the context of inventory cars and the technological capabilities of the cars (especially with regard to Autopilot functionality).  In fact, on the Tesla new and used inventory pages Tesla doesn’t list Versions or any other form of designation in the descriptions.  Instead, prospective buyers have to infer this based on the production year, picture, and presence or absence of Original Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, or Full Self Driving Capability features (which isn’t 100% reliable as these are still software locked on some cars).  This is a unique problem or challenge for Tesla because the technological improvements between each Version are immense but not visually apparent. So how would Tesla best name and differentiate the Tesla Versions?

Possible Naming Schemes for the Current Tesla Model S

  • 2017 Tesla Model S with Refreshed Fascia and Autopilot Hardware 2 (this is how most Tesla enthusiasts would describe the car)
  • Tesla Model S Version 4 (this is how Tesla informally designates the car)
  • Tesla Model S 4th Generation
  • Tesla Model S 4
  • Tesla Model S 4.0
  • Tesla Model S Late-2016
  • Tesla Model S Buffalo
  • Tesla Model S Mark IV

Option 1: Ordinal Generations (1st Generation, 2nd Generation, etc.,)

This naming scheme isn’t much different than the Versions naming scheme.  But it also doesn’t quite fit with automotive nomenclature because the exterior sheet metal of a 1st Generation and 4th Generation Tesla Model S aren’t really different. More accurately, all Tesla Model S are still 1st Generation but the different Versions would be considered Minor Model Changes (MMC’s).

Option 2: Whole Number or Dot Revisions (1, 2, 3, 4, or 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0)

This naming scheme is fairly common in the tech world (e.g. iPhone 7, Windows 10, Android 7.1, Surface 4, PS4 Firmware 4.55, etc.,) and is similar to the Versions naming scheme but without the actual word “Version”. Tesla has already employed this naming scheme for the Roadster (1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0) and for the Model S and X firmware updates (6.0, 6.1, 7.0, 7.1, 8.0, and 8.1).  But in the software world, there is a bit of a negative connotation for the lower numbers, especially “1.0”.  Everyone knows it’s best to wait for the 2.0.  Even within a major revision, many people tend to wait for the first minor revision after the major revision (e.g. X.01 or X.1).  The public has come to expect annual releases. The numbers have gotten quite high in recent years: iOS is up to 11, MacOS is up to 10.13, Parallels is up to 12.  A Tesla Model S 1.0, 2.0, or even 3.0 sounds ancient.

Option 3: Calendar (Mid-2012, Late-2014, Mid-2015, Late-2016)

This is how Apple designates their MacBooks and iMacs.  The problem is that people just think about how dated the product is and how “due” it is for an update.  Tesla would not want people holding off ordering a car because it feels like an update is imminent. A Model S Late-2016 sounds like it should be discounted now that we’re in calendar year 2017.   Another problem with this designation is that it lumps all cars produced during a cycle even if they are built in different years.  A Model S built in September 2016 would be still be considered a “Mid-2015”, likely hurting its resale value.

Option 4: Unique Names (Hawthorne, Fremont, Sparks, Buffalo)

This is how Apple names its MacOS revisions (e.g. Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capital, Sierra, and High Sierra for MacOS) but this would seem odd and confusing if applied to Tesla.

Option 5: Mark with Roman Numerals (Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, Mark IV)

This is similar to Versions, Ordinal Generations, and Whole Numbers but for some reason “Mark” with Roman numerals seem a bit more classy and elegant, a refinement of an already excellent product rather than planned obsolescence.  Perhaps it is because of how sparingly this type of naming scheme is currently used. This is how Canon names the updates to their flagship, multi-thousand dollar SLR cameras.  This is probably a good option for Tesla as well.  It preserves the premium branding of the product without making older versions seem outdated. E.g. A Tesla Model S Mark II just sounds better than a Tesla Model S 2nd Generation, Tesla Model S 2.0, or Tesla Model S Late-2014.  The naming also doesn’t create an expectation of another update the following year.  But most importantly, an announcement of a Tesla Model S Mark V would not devalue the Tesla Model S Mark IV as much as the other naming schemes, especially to prospective buyers who are less knowledgable about Tesla.

Supercharging should be free for all Model S and X forever.

The latest referral promotion for free unlimited supercharging is confusing and half baked especially since it introduced (and then shortly after eliminated) a new class of owner-tied unlimited lifetime supercharging.  Ultimately, Tesla should just make supercharging free for all Model S and X forever.  This maintains a distinction between Model 3/Y and Model S/X, encouraging Model 3/Y owners to upgrade to Model S/X when they have the means to do so.  If Tesla doesn’t make this change, there could be gray market sales/transfers of Tesla accounts and other abuses.  More importantly, existing Tesla owners could defect as more non-Tesla long range EVs hit the market and as 3rd party, paid charging networks expand.  Free unlimited supercharging could tip the balance for Tesla owners to stay with Tesla.

A better way to simplify Tesla Model S and X options and customization.

Tesla has made it clear they want to decrease the number of options and configurations for their cars in order to streamline production.   But the upcoming Model S and Model X configurator which consolidates the various options into 3 overall car configurations (standard, premium, and performance) is confusing and counterproductive.  In fact, it might actually lead to more customer confusion, lower average selling prices, and fewer orders.

For many potential Model S buyers, getting a base Model S is already a budgetary stretch.  If the goal is to upsell, making the first incremental upgrade be over $40k extra doesn’t encourage a lot of consideration. People considering a base Model S might be able to stretch a little further to add one or two options but fewer people can afford to add any options if the result is a 60% increase in the price of the car.

Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self Driving Capability (FSDC) are both software locked options that can be added at anytime.  Making FSDC unavailable for the 75 and 75D and mandatory for P100D, and making Enhanced Autopilot mandatory for 100D seems overly restrictive for something that doesn’t add complexity to the production of these cars.  There’s no reason to restrict or discourage someone from adding or not adding either Autopilot option. Perhaps someone buying a P100D has no interest in Autopilot or FSDC (or prefers to wait until the software is more refined).  Similarly, someone buying the base Model S might be willing to stretch to get the FSDC since it’s one of the key selling points of Tesla.

If the intent is to reduce the number of possible configurations, perhaps Tesla should start by combining several of the current lower priced options.  For example, they could make the Premium Sound ($2500) and Subzero ($1000) packages part of the Premium Upgrades Package ($3500).

Currently, the Premium Upgrades Package consists of upgraded headlights, foglights, HEPA filter, upgraded interior lights, alcantara accents, extended leather (for those also selecting a Leather Package), lighted door handles (for Model S), and auto-presenting driver door (for Model X).  In recent months, the Premium Upgrades Package has been less popular due to the removal of the ventilated seats, and the power liftgate (which is now standard).  If Tesla combined the Premium Sound and Subzero packages with the Premium Upgrades Package and kept the price around $5000, it would become an extremely popular package.  The extended leather components (which anyone with standard multi-pattern seats wouldn’t even get) and alcantara accents could then be transferred to the Leather Package which would see a price increase from $3300 to $5000.  This simple consolidation of packages would decrease the number of possible configurations by a factor of 4.  The overall options would be simplified to just 7 choices:

  • Battery, Drivetrain, Suspension
  • Wheels
  • Glass Roof / Sunroof
  • Exterior Color
  • Interior (Leather Package)
  • Premium Upgrades Package
  • Enhanced Autopilot / Full Self Driving Capability



Extended extended warranties.

The new extended CPO program seems to be a hit. Older high mileage Model S are offered with a 2 year, 100,000 miles bumper to bumper warranty.  But as service data from these older and higher mileage cars accumulate, Tesla should consider offering extended warranties beyond 8 years and 100,000 miles. One of the key talking points in favor of Tesla and EVs in general is their minimal maintenance needs.  Tesla should back up this claim by offering and selling an extended bumper to bumper warranty good for 10 years and 125,000 miles (including 10 years unlimited miles on the powertrain). As data continues to come in, they can adjust the warranty pricing and coverage to maintain revenue neutrality.  When the data supports it, they should next offer a 12 year and 150,000 miles warranty.  If a complete bumper to bumper warranty becomes unfeasible, at least Tesla should offer the option to buy additional coverage for the powertrain.

Tesla Model 3 Options and Pricing.

Tesla says there will be less than 100 configurations of the Model 3.  For the initial production run, options will be limited and buyers will only be able to select the color and wheel size.  However, Elon Musk did say that reservations can be extended for those that want other options (e.g. Dual Motor AWD).  Here are the possible options and pricing.

First, we have to assume that the colors (black, silver, blue, white, and red) are excluded from the 100 configurations as they’re not really configurations or options.  Perhaps Tesla won’t charge $1,000 or $1,500 to upgrade from the default black color.  Also, Autopilot shouldn’t count towards the 100 configurations since it’s a software option that can be enabled at any time.  For pricing, we can assume that most options will be roughly half their equivalent Model S price since the starting price of Model 3 is also about half the starting price of Model S.

Battery and Drivetrain

  • 60 kWh
  • 75 kWh (+$5,000)
  • 75 kWh Dual Motor AWD (+$7,500)
  • 75 kWh Performance Dual Motor AWD (+$27,500)


  • Black
  • Silver Metallic
  • Blue Metallic
  • Pearl White
  • Multi-Coat Red
  • Signature Red (Day One Reservations Only)


  • Standard
  • Glass (+$750)


  • 18″
  • 19″ (+$1,250)


  • Multi-Pattern Black
  • Black Leather (+$1,500)
  • Tan Leather (+$1,500)


  • Standard
  • Premium (+$1,250)


  • Safety
  • Enhanced (+$2,500)
  • Enhanced + Full Self Driving Capability (+$4,000)

Total Configurations (excluding color and Autopilot) = 96

Early Delivery Configuration (75 kWh, Black Leather, Glass Roof, and Premium Sound) = $43,500

As for range and performance, here are some guesses:

  • 60 kWh – 220 miles, 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds
  • 75 kWh – 275 miles, 0-60mph in 5.2 seconds
  • 75 kWh Dual Motor AWD – 290 miles, 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds
  • 75 kWh Performance Dual Motor AWD – 270 miles, 0-60mph in 3.4 seconds

Humanitarian applications of the Tesla Bundle.

Tesla’s unique portfolio and massive multi-gigafactory production of solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicles has a number of humanitarian applications in the setting of natural disasters.  At some point in the near future, Tesla could partner with relief organizations to deploy a bundle of its products in such settings.

Tesla’s core business now involves solar panels, batteries, and electric vehicles.  The Tesla Bundle is simply a scalable collection of these products, packaged together for deployment via land, sea, or air.

In the aftermath of an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, or other large scale natural disaster, loss of electricity can have downstream consequences on critical infrastructure including sanitation systems, hospitals, and emergency services.  Portable generators are typically deployed on a temporary basis, but they have limited output and rely on the availability of gas or diesel.  Solar panels and battery packs are a more viable option as they are sustainable (i.e. once it’s there, it keeps generating electricity) and scalable.  They can be deployed at the building level (hospital, police station, etc.,) or substation level to stabilize the existing grid or create a local micro-grid, or at the community level in situations where the primary energy source (e.g. nuclear or coal plant) has been severely damaged or destroyed.

Larger Tesla Bundles could be deployed in staging areas such as sports stadiums, fair grounds, airports, parkings lots, or even a plot of undeveloped land.  Folding solar canopies could serve a dual role of generating electricity and providing shade and shelter.

When deployed along a large body of water, Tesla Bundles could be paired with portable electric-powered water desalination and treatment systems to provide critical drinking water.

Even short term disruptions to the local fossil fuel infrastructure could negatively effect emergency services.  A Tesla Bundle could include a fleet of electric all-wheel-drive ambulances and police vehicles (based on the Model X platform) and fire trucks and passenger buses (based on the Tesla Semi platform) to help restore critical emergency services and aid with evacuation and relocation.

Tesla Bundles with mobile communication towers (interfacing with SpaceX satellites of course) could restore internet and cellular services.

If the community’s hospital is damaged or destroyed, Tesla Bundles could also include mobile field hospitals.

Tesla Bundles could be deployed just about anywhere in the world.  Depending on the urgency, they could be transported by cargo ship or flown in by air.  Tesla Semi’s would then transport the Tesla Bundles to their final destinations, even if hundreds of miles from the airports and seaports.  To access locations even further away, additional staging grounds and fast charging centers could be easily deployed along the routes.

The Tesla Bundle represents a paradigm shift from “sending consumable resources” to a disaster zone, to sending replacement resource-generating infrastructure into the disaster zone.   But what will impress the world most beyond the sustainability, flexibility, and capability of the Tesla Bundle is the speed in which it can be deployed.  A small Tesla Bundle containing several hundred kW of solar and battery power, mobile field hospital, mobile communications tower, water desalination system, and a dozen search and rescue EVs could be flown into a disaster zone in less than a day.  Whereas repair or reconstruction of a nuclear or coal power plant would take months or years, a temporary or permanent replacement Tesla solar and battery based grid could be deployed in just days or weeks.

Why Tesla Model 3 must and will launch in July.

It’s quite simple… Motor Trend Car of the Year 2018. To be considered for the award, Tesla needs to get a production car out to Motor Trend in the next few months.  Interestingly, if Model 3 wins the 2018 COTY award, that will be back to back EV wins (Chevy Bolt EV won the 2017 award), and the second win for Tesla in just 6 years (Tesla Model S won the 2013 award).


What’s next for the Model S and X interiors.

With Model 3 nearing production, the Model S and X are due for a minor interior refresh.  The most likely changes are:

1) Updated rear seats for the Model S (similar to the rear seats in the Model X 5-seater).

Model S front seats are on their 3rd major revision.  However Model S rear seats are essentially unchanged since the very first Model S (aside from slightly lengthening the outer headrests, and very brief offerings of NextGen rear seats and executive rear seats).

2) Updated dash with “floating screen” aesthetic for Model S and X (similar to Model 3).

This was actually hinted on the original Model X interior sketch. Along with this, Model S and X might adopt the uni-blower HVAC vent design of the Model 3.  Elon has stated that Model S will always be the best car so it stands to reason that any advances introduced in Model 3, including improvements to the interior, will find their way into Model S and X sooner rather than later. Manufacturers generally like all their cars of the same generation to have similar design language.

Spirit of the Acura Integra?

One unexpected (or expected) demographic that will absolutely love the Model 3 is the young adult/street racer/tuner/import crowd. Think Fast and Furious.  Think SEMA (which will have an absolute field day with Model 3). Think 1994-2001 Acura Integra.  In its time, the Integra was fuel efficient, high performing, highly customizable, and relatively affordable.  It captured the imagination of a generation of car enthusiasts.  A base Model 3 is RWD and has 0-60 of 5.6 seconds for $35k, about the same price (adjusted for inflation) as the Acura Integra GS-R Sedan.  Once people start tinkering with aftermarket batteries and software hacks, drop the car, and throw on a big ugly spoiler, all bets are off.  Combined with twice-as-efficient-as-Prius EPA rating, cheaper-than-gas refueling, 5-star crash safety rating, drive-me-home-when-drunk autonomous capability, mega-iPad touchscreen, and classic sport compact styling, Model 3 will be at the top of every high school and college student’s (and their parents’) wish list. This is the Acura Integra reborn.


1994 Acura Integra GS-R Sedan

  • 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds
  • $20,180 MSRP ($33,300 in 2017 dollars)



2017 Tesla Model 3

  • 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds
  • $35,000 MSRP


Footnote 1:

Interestingly, the 1994 Acura Legend LS Sedan had an MSRP of $41,100 which equals about $67,815 in 2017 dollars.  Does that price point sound familiar?


Footnote 2:

The Type R returns this summer in the form of the 2017 Honda Civic Type R.  Estimated 0-60mph of 5.4 seconds (with summer performance tires) for the front wheel drive, 6-speed manual transmission, premium gasoline car. MSRP $33,900.  But even granny in a base Model 3 would give the Type R a run for its money at the stoplight especially when factoring in the 3’s instant torque (and lack of shifting) vs the R’s turbo lag (and need to switch into “Sport+” mode for the best launch).  Plus, the Model 3 doesn’t scream “pull me over”.


A second life for early Tesla Model S?

The new extended CPO program has been rolled out offering 2 year 100,000 mile bumper to bumper warranties for higher mileage 2012 and early 2013 CPO Model S. With prices in the $30k to $40k range, these cars have been selling like hot cakes. Beyond the usual detailing and minor refurbishment, Tesla could improve the customer experience even further by offering some minor interior retrofits to these older cars to bring them up to par with the current interior.  Specifically Tesla could install the new premium front seats (multi-pattern black), new rear seats (“version 1.5” with tall headrests), integrated center console with rear cup holders and USB ports, high resolution dash screen, wood trim, and latest steering wheel (updated turn stalk, cruise control stalk, and gear shifter).  These changes would make the interior look and feel almost identical to the current 2017 “version 4” cars.  Tesla could offer the interior retrofit as a package for about $10,000, or perhaps a la carte $7,000 for the new seats and $3,000 for the other retrofits.  The new interior (especially the front seats and center console) is a significant improvement over the original interior and gives the car a much more functional, upscale, comfortable, plush, and substantial feel.  Rear cup holders and USB ports are a critical addition as well.

Old interior:

New interior: