One of the more popular Tesla rumors that has made its way through the community is the possibility of a refreshed design of the Model S and Model X. The two cars have had very minor cosmetic adjustments since their introduction in 2012 and 2015. While they contribute to Tesla’s quarterly sales and delivery figures, they are, in essence, sentimental vehicles. At least, that is what Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during a 2019 Tesla Earnings call. “To be totally frank, we’re continuing to make them more for sentimental reasons than anything else. They’re really of minor importance to the future,” Musk said.
Which begs the question: Why is Tesla planning a refresh of the two vehicles now, a year and a half after Musk called the S and X “sentimental” cars that had relatively minor importance to the future. While the Tesla community has certainly convinced itself that a newly designed Model S and Model X are on the way, there is the possibility that it isn’t even going to happen.
It all started when Tesla shut down Model S and Model X production lines in late 2020. The catalyst to all the rumors was that the company was upgrading production lines to handle the redesigned vehicles, and Tesla could agree upon the right modifications to make for the new models. It all makes sense of why many people jumped to “They’re refreshing the cars” right away. After all, the Model 3 just had an update of its own, and it was mostly cosmetic.
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However, the S and X have been around for so many years, with the only huge change being the nosecone modification. There have been many software updates and performance upgrades, but those apply to every Tesla vehicle, for the most part, with very few exceptions included.
The Model S and Model X production lines being shut down led to me getting nosy and calling my local showroom. I decided to give them a call because they’re always willing to talk about Tesla, and they’re so knowledgeable that it is nice to have a reasonable conversation with someone who knows what is going on within the community. According to who I spoke to, they received emails stating that the lines were being shut down for efficiency reasons. There was no hint toward a redesign of the Model S and Model X. Of course, Tesla isn’t going to tell the showroom associates and sales advisors this. It’s obviously going to stay among the company’s executives.
But if we dig into the efficiency of the Model S and Model X lines at Fremont, it makes a lot of sense. The Model S and Model X only accounted for 18,920 of the over 180,000 vehicles that Tesla delivered in Q4 2020. The car was only delivered 57,039 times for the full year, while Tesla delivered just shy of half a million cars in total.
Does it make sense to have two production lines dedicated to cars making up only around 12-13% of the total output at Fremont? Could these lines be consolidated into one, with the other line being converted to a 3/Y line? This would alleviate some of the supply constraints that Tesla has with Model 3 and Model Y production. It could enable faster deliveries as demand climbs, and it could enable Tesla to be more efficient in its production of the S and X moving forward.
Musk has been a huge proponent of increasing manufacturing and production efficiency. It makes a lot of sense to me that Tesla would consider shutting down S/X lines to upgrade one line to a 3/Y line; the demand for S/X just isn’t great enough to dedicate two lines to the operation. 3/Y production is much more important.
This is all speculation, and while I do think that Tesla will upgrade and update the S and X in some ways, I don’t see how they can make major changes, especially since the company has already announced and shown the Model S Plaid, which is set to begin deliveries later this year. If Tesla were to refresh the S, there would be a major cause for concern for those who already ordered the Plaid S because it would likely mean a new vehicle would be on its way that would look entirely different than the current Plaid Model S.
It just seems like IF Tesla is going to refresh the S, they will widen the body style as the Plaid Model S has influenced. It will likely not have the rear diffuser or the spoiler. It may just be a wider body style.
Of course, Tesla will also likely implement the 4680 battery cells in the cars, which would revamp the battery pack with more life, power, and longevity. That is if Tesla has the supply for it because the company is still very early on in its battery manufacturing efforts at Kato Road. It is not unlikely that the S and X could be the first cars to use Tesla’s structural battery pack to increase safety and rigidity. Once again, these are all speculation and only thoughts that make sense.
Of course, there is always the possibility that Tesla could be attempting to rebirth the S/X with a complete revamp of its design and infrastructure. It could lead to a less expensive cost. Tesla having 4 vehicles that are mass-market instead of 2 could bring Tesla closer to price parity, increasing the growth of the EV sector. How they will do this, it likely depends on the batteries, which make up so much of the vehicle’s cost. However, the cars will likely need some kind of cosmetic update as well to appeal to customers moving forward. The 3 and Y seem to be more widely accepted, not only because of price but because of look.
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SpaceX rapidly builds, tests Starship Moon elevator for NASA
As part of a NASA program that will select one or two commercial crewed Moon landers, SpaceX is busy testing Starship and prototyping hardware and most recently built and demonstrated an elevator “in a very short period of time.”
Known as the Human Landing System (HLS) program, NASA selected three providers – a Blue Origin-led consortium, Dynetics, and SpaceX – to build prototypes and compete for one or two follow-on contracts back in April 2020. SpaceX’s Starship offering was deemed the riskiest solution and the company received a middling $135 million to Dynetics’ ~$250 million and the “National Team’s” ~$570 million.
For their ~$820 million investment, it’s unclear what exactly NASA has gotten from its two best-funded teams aside from paperwork, a few completed design reviews, and two low-fidelity mockups mostly made out of cardboard, foam, and wood. Meanwhile, in the ten months since SpaceX received its $135 million, the company has built no less than eight full-scale Starship prototypes, performed a dozen or more wet dress rehearsals and static fires with said prototypes, and performed two powered hops and two high-altitude test flights. Now, to add to that list of low-cost achievements, SpaceX has also built and tested a functioning prototype of the elevator Starship would use to lift and lower astronauts to and from the lunar surface.
SpaceX’s proposal is certainly a unique one, with Starship being no less than several times taller and heavier than both its prospective competitors. However, Blue Origin’s extraordinarily complex three-stage, four-component lander – requiring a separate transfer stage, descent stage, ascent stage, and crew cabin – makes even Starship seem somewhat reasonable.
Notably, that massive 8-10m (25-32 ft) stack of separate spacecraft – crew cabin at the peak – would force NASA astronauts to transit a several-story ladder to and from the lunar surface. Far taller than the Apollo Program’s lander ladder, which NASA was already somewhat tepid on at the time, navigating a tall ladder in a clumsy, imprecise lunar EVA spacesuit would be extremely challenging and relatively risky. Dynetics is by far the least concerning solution in that regard, requiring what amounts to a footstool relative to SpaceX and Blue Origin.
In the National Team’s defense, SpaceX’s elevator approach is also undeniably risky, and it’s safe to say that demonstrated reliability would be an absolute necessity for NASA to ever accept that solution. Of course, SpaceX could feasibly include a hand-cranked backup system and a ladder on Starship’s exterior in the event of total system failure, but both backups would still pose risks similar to or greater than the National Team’s ladder.
However, the fact that SpaceX has already built and begun testing a Starship Moon elevator prototype makes it hard to believe that the company couldn’t ultimately produce a safe, reliable, redundant elevator between now and the mid to late 2020s.
On a separate note, it’s unclear when or where SpaceX built and tested the first Starship elevator. The photo NASA’s Mark Kirasich provider appears to show an elevator prototype situated inside a steel Starship ring with the sky visible, but nothing like that setup has been spotted at SpaceX’s Boca Chica Starship factory or former Cocoa Beach production facilities. That leaves its Hawthorne, California factory or, perhaps, a mysterious “Roberts Road” facility on Kennedy Space Center (KSC) land. Either way, it certainly appears that SpaceX has yet to show all its cards and is doing everything it can to convince NASA that Starship is worth additional HLS contracts.
NASA is expected to award contracts for full-up Moon lander demonstrations from one or two of the three candidates either “in the next few weeks” or sometime in April.
Redwood Materials sheds light on recycling deals with Tesla, AESC
Former Tesla co-founder JB Straubel’s battery recycling startup Redwood Materials announced recently that it had come to terms with Envision AESC for cell recycling efforts. After CNBC initially reported the partnership yesterday, Teslarati spoke to the battery recycling startup, indicating there are plenty of details that make the pairing ideal for the entire EV sector.
While Redwood’s most recent announcement sheds light on a partnership with AESC, it is not the only contributor to the batter recycling efforts that Straubel’s company is working on. With the conglomerate’s announcement, Redwood now works with the two largest battery manufacturing companies in North America. Along with AESC, Redwood is also working with Panasonic, Tesla’s supplier at its factory in Sparks, Nevada, known as the Tesla Gigafactory. While Envision AESC works out of Tennessee, Redwood has established two battery cell producers in separate regions of the United States, working on expanding its footprint of possible EV manufacturers who need assistance in responsibly disposing of their batteries.
Resuing battery materials will eliminate some criticism regarding mining, which can be hazardous to the environment. Ultimately, Redwood aims to give EV manufacturers the ability to reuse their materials, and it has gotten to the point that the difference between new and recycled materials is relatively “indistinguishable,” Straubel said.
However, Bill Williams, Envision AESC’s Director of Business Development, also chimed in on the partnership with Redwood. The two companies’ goals of sustainability and cost-effectiveness will help the development of the electric vehicle sector, along with the ongoing production of energy storage products that are becoming more popular.
“Envision AESC’s partnership with Redwood Materials will allow all production scrap from our US factory to be recycled, and, eventually, for Redwood to supply material for AESC. This circular supply chain supports Envision AESC’s deep commitment to sustainability and already creates substantial cost savings for Envision AESC that will be passed down to future electric vehicles and energy products.”
Batteries from AESC’s facility in Smyrna, Tennessee, are being used to power electric buses, energy storage units, and the Nissan LEAF, among many other products, a Redwood spokesperson told Teslarati. Additionally, the material being received by Redwood from both the Tesla Gigafactory makes up for more than 1 GWh of material from Panasonic alone. This is ultimately fueled by the expansion of the Gigafactory, and the material received by Redwood will return to Panasonic and be put into new batteries, according to Redwood’s spokesperson.
Redwood will recycle all production scrap from any of its partners, including cathode and anode materials and cells or battery modules that don’t pass validation and are past the point of repair. The goal of its partnership with AESC is to produce material that could eventually be returned to the supplier as a part of a fully circular supply chain, eliminating the need for massive mining pushes or extensive contracts with battery material suppliers, the spokesperson added.
Redwood’s development of recycled goods will eventually turn the EV sector into an even more sustainable industry that could lead to the complete phase-out of combustion engines altogether. If batteries are sourced properly as the EV sector continues to grow, many of the cars on the road could contain recycled materials thanks to Redwood’s initiative, turning the already Earth-friendly EV sector into one of the most sustainable industries globally.
Rivian’s first ‘Experience Center’ planned for Laguna Beach landmark
Rivian is planning to open an “Experience Center” in Laguna Beach, transforming a landmark movie theater into a full-fledged EV community facility.
An application to transform the Laguna Theater into the company’s introductory Experience Center was submitted last Summer. Initially, the Laguna Theater has the appearance of a 1930’s era cinema, giving some nostalgia of an evening at the movies. Rivian plans to add some features to the historic Laguna Theatre that will likely complement the automaker’s massive push that is planned for later this year when its R1T pickup hits the market.
Closing in 2015, the Laguna Theater was built in 1934 but began operating in 1935. Rivian looks to maintain the overall design and personality of the building, without disrupting the essence of the building’s historic charm.
In documents acquired by JimmyEV of the RivianOwnersForum, Rivian’s proposal plans to:
‘Transform the historic theater into a community-focused hub that will include retail space, food and beverage, and a restored theater for public programming. Rivian sees this project as an opportunity to invest into the community of Laguna Beach by restoring the historic façade, modernizing the theater interior, and introducing new public programming to make it an activated development year-round.”
The automaker states in other areas of the document that it plans to hold Live Events and Screenings, along with Art Showings, Lectures, Classes, a Theater, and Retail and Cafe spaces in the facility after it does a renovation of the building. It plans to keep the overall footprint of the Laguna Theater the same and only wishes to restore some of the interior and exterior elements to “match existing and historical conditions.” Rivian says that it plans to follow Genera Plan policies like the Encouraged Preservation of Historic Structures and Adaptive Reuse of Buildings as it protects the character-defining components of the Laguna Beach area.
An apartment unit is also located above the Theater, and Rivian plans to take possession of it to house guest speakers, lecturers, Rivian shareholders, and customers, when applicable.
Rivian’s proposed restoration and re-use of the Theater will only require slight restorations with some floorplan reconfigurations, the company’s conclusion on the application says. The overall goal is to preserve the Laguna Theater as a community landmark while using the historic space to promote Rivian’s new, state-of-the-art electric vehicles. The company plans to begin deliveries of the R1T later this Summer and is coming off of its most robust Investment Round yet, where the automaker raised over $2.65 billion in funding. The Experience Center has already been given the go-ahead by local authorities, according to the Laguna Beach Independent. It will open in late 2021.
“I’m really excited about the project,” Laguna Beach Planning Commissioner Jorg Dubin said. “I’m happy that the theater is finally going to have something going on there instead of it being empty. I’m fully in favor of the project moving forward.”
Tesla is preparing to send driver profiles to the cloud, hints latest code
It appears that Tesla has started making some preparations that would make it easier for drivers to access multiple vehicles. This was hinted at by recent observations from noted Tesla owner-hacker @greentheonly, who discovered that the EV maker is looking to move user profile items to the cloud.
With such a system in place, users could essentially access any Tesla and have their customized profiles, such as game and app settings, migrate with them. If Tesla could also include specific vehicle settings like temperature, side mirror, and seat preferences in its cloud-based system, electric car owners would have no inconveniences when using multiple vehicles.
Currently inactive, but something to look forward to in the future I guess. pic.twitter.com/QPiwT5bc2O
— green (@greentheonly) February 23, 2021
Such a feature has numerous advantages. Apart from making the ownership experience far more convenient for users of multiple Teslas, the cloud-based profiles would also be great for those who end up using loaner cars when their vehicles are at the service center. Drivers who rent other Teslas would have an effortless time acclimating to their rental cars as well.
Apart from the Tesla owner-hacker’s observations, the electric car maker has also rolled out a rather interesting update on its mobile app in the form of Supercharging receipt filtering features. This is a relatively simple update that may seem minor, but Tesla owners that manage numerous vehicles for rental use have remarked that the filtering feature makes it far easier to manage and track multiple cars.
If you currently share one or more Teslas on @turo, you’re likely charging an estimated amount based on supercharger usage or opening up dozens of receipts weekly to request reimbursement from your guests. This isn’t that bad but it takes time and makes processing rentals slower.
— The Kilowatts 🚗⚡️ (@klwtts) February 24, 2021
Managing multiple vehicles is something that Robotaxi fleet owners would regularly do in the future, or at least once the full-featured version of the Full Self-Driving suite is deployed en masse. With this in mind, even relatively minor conveniences such as filtering Supercharger costs for each specific vehicle would be invaluable if not time-saving.
During Autonomy Day back in 2019, CEO Elon Musk remarked that Tesla would make it a point to ensure that owners will find it convenient to use their vehicles as part of the Robotaxi Network. According to the CEO, managing Robotaxis could be done through a mobile device, with owners having control over the number of hours their vehicle is used as part of the ride-hailing service.
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