- Company using new platform that will provide flexibility
- Analyst Jaffe says Tesla will be major player in car sharing
When Tesla Motors Inc. unveils its Model 3 on Thursday, the world will see the more affordable electric sedan that has been part of the company’s “master plan” for a decade.
It’s not just a new car. It’s a new vehicle platform, giving Tesla the flexibility to add new bodies with relative ease. The company has said the Model 3 will include a sedan and will also be the basis for a crossover sport utility vehicle. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has also talked about his desire to build a pickup at some point.
Sam Jaffe, an analyst at Cairn Energy Research Advisors, predicts in a report for clients on Wednesday that the Model 3 will have a 65 kilowatt-hour battery pack and a range per charge of about 225 miles (362 kilometers). Measured as kilowatt hours per kilogram or liter, the “energy density” of a battery determines range: The more watt hours, the more miles a vehicle can travel on a charge. High energy density at low cost is the holy grail of the battery industry, and Jaffe said he expects the new cells in the Model 3 will have roughly 35 percent more energy than each cell in Tesla’s Model S and Model X.
Jaffe also said car sharing will become a significant part of Tesla’s business model in the coming years, in part because of autonomous driving features like “summon mode,” which lets the car on its own travel at low speed from a parking spot to it owner. If that ability could be expanded to entire neighborhoods, a fleet vehicle could hover nearby and be sent on demand.
“Tesla Motors will become a major player in the car-sharing market,” Jaffe said in the report, noting that the company “controls both the vehicle technology and has the software development capabilities to control the software platform that would be at the heart of such a service.”
In the run-up to the Model 3’s unveiling, little has leaked out about the vehicle’s specifications, styling, range or features. Tesla has said production and deliveries will begin in late 2017; reservations begin worldwide on March 31. Some customers in Australia, Canada, California and elsewhere are camping out at local stores to get better spots in queues, which are set up for each region. Existing owners of the Model S and Model X get priority.
In a speech at the University of Nevada at Reno in October, Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel walked through the company’s product-development history: the Roadster, the Model S, the Model X and, now, the Model 3, which a team has been working on for years.
“Most of Model 3 has to be new,” Straubel said during the question-and-answer portion of the event. “With X, we were able to build on a lot of common components with S, but with Model 3 we can’t do that. So we’re inventing a whole new platform for Model 3. It’s a new battery architecture, it’s a new motor technology, brand-new vehicle structure -- it’s a lot of work. This is something we started on even a few years ago. It is a brand new vehicle -- and it has to be.”
All the Cards?
Analysts aren’t expecting Musk to reveal everything at the Model 3 event. During Tesla’s most recent earnings call, Musk said, “We’re trying to decide whether we should show all the cards or keep a few cards close to the vest.”
“The expectation of the Street is that details will be sparse at the unveiling Thursday night,” said Ben Kallo, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. “There’s a lot of interest in the materials; the Model S and the X were all aluminum. We don’t know what the 3 will be made of, or what kind of autonomous features will be revealed.”
Tesla shares fell 0.7 percent to at $228.59 at 2:57 p.m. New York time. They were down 4.1 percent this year through Tuesday.
Bearish bets on the stock have jumped by 50 percent from a low in July. Short interest among the shares outstanding is at 26 percent, making Tesla the third-most-shorted company in the Russell 1000 Index, after Square Inc. and GameStop Corp., data compiled by Bloomberg and Markit Ltd. show. Tesla is also among the more expensive stocks to short: The cost to borrow shares is rated a 6 by Markit, with 10 being the most expensive.