The Tesla Model S sales have been steadily increasing, but barely 4% of those are for the baseline 40kWh version, so it doesn’t make much sense to produce it.
Instead of dropping the 40kWh version altogether, Tesla Motors has done something pretty interesting with the baseline Tesla Model S. The 40kWh version of the car will come with the 60kWh battery, but the battery will be limited by the software to deliver the same range of the smaller battery. This is probably cheaper than developing a 40kWh batter just to cover 4% of sales, but it also opens up a couple of opportunities.
First, the Tesla Model S 40kWh has the same performance as the 60kWh version, 301hp instead of 235hp, 317lb•ft torque instead of 310lb•ft, higher top speed and better acceleration. Second, for the cost of upgrading to the 60kWh version, owners of the 40kWh version could just pay for the upgrade of $10,000 and get software to unlock the extra 20kWh capacity. This could greatly increase the value of the car once it comes time to trade in, or just make it easier to get into a Tesla Model S and pay for the upgrade later.
In the something for nothing category, Tesla Motors has been installing SuperCharger hardware on all of their Tesla Model S 60kWh vehicles, essentially a free upgrade. I’m not entirely sure if this means it has SuperCharger capability. Could it be another software unlock? According to Tesla Motors, they’re “taking a slight cost risk that ultimately all customers will want to by the SuperCharger upgrade…” In any case, “Thank you, Tesla Motors.”