The recent media squall stirred up by The New York Times’ review of the Tesla Model S has focused mainly on battery range and recharging times. These are nearly the most important capabilities that determine whether an electric vehicle is a viable replacement for a conventional vehicle.
While most of the reviews and customer testimonials paint a pretty picture of the Tesla Model S’ capabilities, there is one thing that we still have to ask, “Is it affordable?”
Unfortunately, the luxury Tesla Model S is far out of the range of most of the buying public, probably the same ones who could benefit from it the most. Even the base Model S, with the 40kWh battery, starts over $50,000, which only gives you about 160 miles range. Upgrade to the 85kWh battery with 300 miles range, an prepare to spend between $72,000 and $88,000.
While the vehicles are equipped practically the same in the interior, electronics, climate control, audio system, it is the battery that sets these models apart. From the pricing on the Tesla Model S Battery Replacement Option, you can see that the 40kWh battery costs $8,000 and the 85kWh costs $12,000. For the average driver ready to spend $30,000 on a new vehicle, this is easily ⅓ the price of a whole new vehicle, but with 160 miles range, isn’t viable for many drivers.
Can electric vehicles be affordable and viable? The key to making them achieve both these objectives is the battery pack’s weight, capacity, and recharging capability. To that end, the Obama Administration’s RANGE [Robust Affordable Next Generation EV] Storage Project has been allocated $20 million to develop an electric vehicle battery with three times the range while cutting the cost to just ⅓.
If there is anything blocking the adoption of electric vehicles, besides snarky reviews, it is the battery itself, if not range, at least the pricing to get that range is going to put most people off. Such a development, if funding remains intact, could result in an electric vehicle under $30,000 with all the features and range you’d expect from a conventional vehicle.
image (c) Tesla Motors