Elon Musk’s self-described “Battery Day” presentation yesterday did little to wow investors as he teased the existence of an affordably-priced Tesla, likely around $25,000 (£19,600). Problem is, the timescale for such a vehicle would be “in about three years time.”
Clearly the news was not well-received, as Tesla’s stock market value dropped by an agonizing $50 billion, not helped by some experts being uncertain exactly how cheap batteries could actually be, considering the cost of the components needed to make them.
Still, that wasn’t the only news, the main feature of the event being the company’s new larger cylindrical cells, which will hold five times the energy, six times more power, and increase driving range by about 16%, done by integrating the battery into the vehicle’s structure to reduce weight overall weight. Sounds pretty cool, but like the affordable Tesla, this is a future project, not a physical product to hand.
Elon’s speech feels like the latest incarnation of a recurring problem: namely that many of his claims have felt ambitious and exaggerated at best. Back in July Musk commented that “we will have the basic functionality for level five autonomy complete this year,” and that “there are no fundamental challenges remaining,” suggesting that self-driving vehicles could be rolling around the planet by Christmas. It was met with no small amount of scepticism by experts, many of whom connected this to the vehicle mogul’s documented history of publicity stunts and headline-catching statements.
This may go some way to explaining the slightly more subdued statements on affordable Tesla scheduling yesterday, but it clearly hasn’t gone over well, not helped by the fact that much of what Musk is seen by many as unreliable by definition. It seems as though Tesla will have to start meeting some of the wild claims of its CEO before it can risk promising even more in the future, otherwise people might start disregarding them altogether.