Tesla Model C Not Frozen: Development Quietly Continues
At first it was announced that this model, which would be designed and manufactured entirely in Giga Factory Shanghai (China), would be launched on the market in 2023. However, Elon Musk poured a bucket of cold water on the potential buyers of the vehicle in January 2022 by announcing that its development was frozen: "…right now we're not working on a $25,000 car" he clearly stated at the time.
This surprising decision would respond to several factors: to begin with, Tesla would have decided to prioritize its previous projects (Cybertruck, Roadster, Tesla Semi), which accumulate significant delays so far; in addition, the fact is that the company currently already sells all its production and by the way has the second best profit margin per unit in the industry after Ferrari, which is why experts in general do not believe it would be interested in launching a cheaper - and therefore less profitable - model.
But in spite of everything, some rumors indicate that in fact the project could not be frozen at all, the real intention behind said announcement being not to harm the sales of the current gamut, since some clients could very well decide to cancel the purchase of a Model 3 or a Model Y in order to wait for the new access model.
So this Tesla Model C – apparently - would be made in China: these rumors have now gained credibility, mainly because according to Chinese sources the first prototypes have already been completed and several agreements with suppliers have even been reached. Apparently the first tests would be carried out under the most absolute secrecy in order to (logically) avoid speculation in the press.
It was confirmed – again, according to the sources - that the Model C would use LFP (lithium iron phosphate) batteries, like those already being used in the Standard Range RWD versions of the Model 3 and Model Y. Let's remember that the lithium iron phosphate battery (LiFePO4) or LFP battery (lithium ferrophosphate) is a type of lithium-ion battery using lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) as the cathode material, and a graphitic carbon electrode with a metallic backing as the anode.
The energy density of an LFP battery is lower than that of other common lithium ion battery types such as Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) and Nickel Cobalt Aluminum (NCA), and also has a lower operating voltage; CATL's LFP batteries are currently at 125 watt hours (Wh) per kg, up to possibly 160 Wh/kg with improved packing technology; while BYD's LFP batteries are at 150 Wh/kg, compared to over 300 Wh/kg for the highest NMC batteries.
Because of its lower cost, high safety, low toxicity, long cycle life and other factors, LFP batteries are finding a number of roles in vehicle use, utility scale stationary applications, and backup power. LFP batteries are cobalt-free. As of Q1 2021, LFP type battery market share reached 24.1%, with Chinese manufacturers holding a near monopoly, and is expected to rise further to surpass NMC type batteries by 2028.
Some media pointed out that, instead of resorting again to CATL, Tesla would be interested in using BYD's innovative Blade batteries. For now it is actually unknown if it will be a hatchback or an SUV; however, what is almost certain is that it will fit into segment C (compact). The vehicle, which could be called "Model C", "Model 2" or "Model Q", will use a shortened version of the platform of the Model 3 and Model Y, and it is also very likely that large castings will be used in the construction of its monocoque chassis.
All images courtesy of Tesla Inc.
Nico Caballero is the VP of Finance of Cogency Power, specializing in solar energy. He also holds a Diploma in Electric Cars from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and enjoys doing research about Tesla and EV batteries. He can be reached at @NicoTorqueNews on Twitter. Nico covers Tesla and electric vehicle latest happenings at Torque News.