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Tesla CEO Musk launches Model X electric SUV: “safest SUV ever”

Tesla launched the delayed battery-electric Model X SUV at an event at its Fremont factory Tuesday night (the launch event itself running behind schedule as well) with an emphasis first on the safety of the vehicle; second on the innovative falcon wing lifting rear doors and second row seating; and third on performance. The base all-wheel drive Model X 90D has a range of some 257 miles (414 km), with a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds; a “Ludicrous” P90 version of the SUV (earlier post) takes 3.2 seconds, said CEO Elon Musk.

Musk said that Tesla expects the Model X to receive 5 star safety rating from NHTSA in every area—the first SUV to do so. Indeed, Musk said, were there such a rating, the Model X should receive a 6-star rating based on the low probability of overall injury.

Tesla awards itself 6 stars. Click to enlarge.

Musk emphasized that basic design of car contributes to the overall safety. As one example, the small electric motor down low by the battery pack enables a longer distance for the crumple zone. The low center of gravity resulting from the low battery pack results in half of the rollover propensity of any current SUV or minivan, Musk said.

Further, the pack acts as a stiffening member for the whole, lowering the center of mass and serving as a low transfer medium for the rest of the vehicle.

Active safety features such as automatic emergency braking and side collision avoidance help reduce the chance of accident in the first place. The Model S uses camera and radar to brake automatically before an accident. Ultrasonic sensors help steer the SUV away from side collisions.

Musk also emphasized Model X’s oversized HEPA filters, which provide “air cleanliness comparable to hospital operating room.”

We can’t even detect any viruses or bacteria or spores. Zero come through. If there is ever an apocalyptic scenario, just press the bioweapon defense mode button.

—Elon Musk

In addition the falcon wing rear doors, the Model X front door is auto-sensing; it can detect the driver’s approach, open itself without driver touch, and then close once the driver is in the vehicle. The panoramic windshield feels like a helicopter cockpit, Musk enthused, and helps deliver the Model X’s “transformative driving experience.”

The Model X also features a blind holster for smartphones—i.e., a slot into which any popular phone can fit an connect and charge simply by the driver sliding the phone into it (Model X offers adapters) instead of “fiddling with a bunch of wires.”

The Model X, which shares powertrain elements with the Model S (90 kWh battery pack and front and rear drive motors, earlier post) has a 5,000 lb towing capacity. The dual motors digitally and independently control torque to the front and rear wheels. Unlike Audi’s e-tron quattro concept, which uses dual motors on the rear axle, Tesla opts for a single motor approach there. (Earlier post.)

At the event, Musk handed over the keys to the first six (well, five, the sixth was his) Founders Series models, which start at $132,000 for the base Model X 90D; the “Ludicrous” P90D costs $142,000, with slightly less range. No word yet on the availability of less expensive models.





There are some nice design touches.
I especially like the phone pouch.
Lets hope it all works right, as I have always been suspicious of those folding doors.

Account Deleted

It may be that Tesla is late with the Model X by its own standards but Tesla is still 3 years ahead of everyone else planning to make a luxury long-range BEV. There is a global market for some 300,000 luxury vehicles per year costing 80k USD and more. Tesla is going to occupy 120,000 units of this market by 2017 as the gasser luxury cars in this segment really are no competition at all by comparison with Model S and Model X. Moreover, Tesla will launch a new Roadster in 2019 completing their luxury line up and enable them to take probably half of the global market for 80k USD cars and above. By 2017 the luxury gassers are going to bleed market share and be forced to shot down factories. They will all know by that time that if they do not change strategy and make the development of long-range BEVs their primary objective they will be finished by Tesla and others who does.

Tesla's biggest publicity "problem" right now is that they do not make a car that enable transport for ordinary people with ordinary incomes. I hear that complaint repeatedly everywhere so it is serious. Tesla, for now, is elitist and that is never going to be popular in large parts of our society. However, it will change so some degree in 2018 when Tesla starts selling the Model 3. Nevertheless, that car will still be too expensive and too small for most consumers to consider. For Tesla to truly rid it selves of the elitist emblem they will have to launch a self-driving taxi service with fares that everyone can pay, even those who would otherwise drive a 20k USD gasser.

I believe that Tesla will launch such an affordable Taxi service sooner than anybody else and before 2020. It will be Tesla's most important and fastest growing product when it happens and it will change everything we know about the transportation business. Musk gave an interview a few days ago where he expects Tesla will have a functioning fully self-driving car in just 3 years or in 2018. This is sooner than the 2020 estimate he gave last year. He expect legislation to take 1 to 2 years to approve such self-driving technology but that this approval time will vary across countries. In effect with Tesla already operating globally they can simply start in the country that allows self-driving cars first and expand it to other countries that take longer to approve this technology. The technology can be build into every Tesla sold and activated by a software update as soon as the legislation allow it to happen. I imagine Tesla will keep selling luxury cars to wealthy people and also offer these self-driving taxi services for everyone else.

Interview with Must where he predicts Tesla will have a fully self-driving car by 2018 (8 min into the video)

Account Deleted

The bio weapons defence mode is actually not a joke. The Model X has a real button for activating it. Anyone with pollen allergies will love it. However, for everyone else the system's ability to protect its passengers against life-shortening air pollution is going to be the main thing. But who knows it might actually also save some people the day we see the world's first terror attract with bio weapons which eventually will happen.

Off cause one can always hope that we start taking air pollution serious. After all, it causes 7 million premature deaths every year on our planet and is far more deadly than terrorism and ordinary car accidents combined. I doubt air pollution will be taken seriously anytime soon although the VW scandal might start to move things in the right direction. Until then at least the wealthy will be able to protect themselves with these "bio weapons defence systems" for their cars and homes.


I'm always amused by the people who talk about Tesla being late with products. Why? They are just setting internal targets and they're not really having to compete with anyone who cares.

When they do ship, their quality has been very high and they do great with their sales so it's a non-factor for me.

Nick Lyons


The reason to be concerned with schedule slips is that Tesla is still in startup mode, is not profitable, and is financing its growth with repeated stock offerings. This is all well and good as long as the stock price remains stratospheric, but that will not continue if sales disappoint and analysts start downgrading the stock. Somehow Tesla needs to get over the hump and actually turn a profit. According to their business plan, that means building/selling a higher-volume, more affordable car. The up front capital expense to get there is vast, and time is money. Schedule slips matter, because one wrong step (e.g. expensive recall) and you may not be able to continue your growth plan. Going from startup to high-volume production in such a capital intensive industry is a race against time and against Murphy's Law. I wish them luck.

Bob Wallace

Tesla's gross profit margin, the difference between the cost of selling price and what it costs to built the car runs between 20% and 30%. That is a higher GPM than other car manufacturers. Take a look -

Tesla's losses come not from vehicle production but from business expansion. If you're spending money to grow your business (building a Supercharger network, building a Gigafactory) then you'll show a loss. That's an "investment loss", not an "operating loss". The difference is very, very important.

Looking at the ModX cost I expect Tesla to show a higher GPM in the near future.

Nick Lyons

A loss is a loss--it eats cash. As long as Tesla can raise more cash they will stay afloat, but the burn rate will get them in the end if they don't eventually start making money. The longer that takes, the greater the chance some unplanned event or changed circumstance might throw sand into the gears.

The biggest risk I see is a macroeconomic downturn which dries up orders.

With over $3 billion in reservation holders for the Model X alone, Tesla has an impressive backlog. Wall St loves that.

But a US or worldwide financial crisis could pull in those horns quick.

Account Deleted

Tesla selling 50k cars this year for an average 100k USD a piece means 5 billion USD in sales and with a gross margin of 25% they will be able to self-finance 1.25 billion in investments. But ramping production capacity up from 50k per year to 120k per year by 2017 and building more service shops, supercharger stations and Tesla stores globally will require even more capital so they issue more stock. Not much. Last time is was 700 million USD. There will probably be another round in 2016 of similar magnitude. If Tesla did not have to ramp up capacity so fast they would be profitable today. I am not so worried anymore with two incredible competitive cars for sales and a lot of waiting customers (30k are waiting for Model X) Tesla can handle to grow fast and finance part of it through more stock issues. If Tesla can make their cars fully self-driving by 2018 and 2 to 3 years ahead of any other market participants they will still only be supply restrained until 2021 at least.

Nick Lyons

Model X is not a done deal yet--let's see if they can deliver the production cars in quantity this year.

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For this year I do not expect volume production of Model X. The roamer is that Tesla only signed binding contracts to buy volume quantities of parts for Model X from some of their external suppliers in September. Most manufactories have a lead time for ramp up of 3 to 4 months so I expect volume production of Model X to happen in January or February 2016. I am sure everybody are working overtime to ramp up faster than that as Tesla is beginning to be a really important customer in the top luxury market so suppliers will be trying to outdo themselves in order to surprise positively. Still, my bet is no volume production until early next year. My biggest worry is that Model X still might have some design issues that are not solved. Do those falcon doors work in real life? We will see. They are a world first in a production car. Certainly others must have tried to make falcon doors before Tesla but they have all failed as we have not seen such doors before in a production car. However, Tesla believe they have succeeded. One thing that Musk mentioned was that Tesla had to make a sensor for the falcon door that could see through metal so that it could be out of sight. That sensor is a world first as well. An early version of the falcon door had standard sensors visibly on the outside of the door but Musk did not like its aesthetics so that was one important reason the Model X was delayed. They simply needed time to invent a sensor that could be fully out of sight. I am guessing Tesla can deliver 300 to 600 Model X this year and any serious design issue would probably be discovered by then. I am happy on behalf of Tesla if they can get to the next year without discovering any serious design issues. Consumer reception of those falcon doors are going to be very important. If Tesla's customers love them it will be fantastic if not Tesla would need to make a version with traditional doors and that could delay volume production of Model X by another year. My bet is that Tesla is already developing a lower priced version of Model X with a smaller battery, standard doors and rear wheel drive only. Tesla need a version they can price at about 80k USD. That may not come until early 2017.

Account Deleted

I cannot help comparing the Model X with Audi's 2018 BEV. Turns out the Model X and the Audi BEV both are rated at 311 miles range at the European test cycle. However, Audi needs a 95kwh battery to do it whereas Model X only needs 90kwh. Model X also has a lower drag coefficient of 0.24 whereas Audi is 0.25. Off cause when we get to 2018 the Model X will get even more efficient and come with a larger battery option. Also the Audi does not have falcon doors, it does not have as effective an air pollution protection system, it does not come standard with panoramic roof and it will most likely also not be supported by free long-distance electricity in a dense and global supercharger network. I also bet that Tesla's autopilot system by 2018 will be years ahead of Audi. Finally, I bet that the Audi BEV will be more expensive than the Model X because Audi has much higher battery costs and costs of producing the electric motors because Tesla have much more volume in both batteries, high power electric motors and power electronics.

I think it is great that Audi will make a long-range BEV but it should become Audi's main priority above everything else instead of doing it as a side project to making gassers. These gassers and dirty diesels are all stone dead when the self-driving cars come. The self-driving taxis will certainly only be battery electric as they are five times more durable than gassers or fuel cells and electricity is cheaper than gas or hydrogen by a large margin.

Specks for Model X

Specks for Audi BEV


Yes, Henrik, all taxis and city buses should be fully electrified and automated to respect traffic regulations and to reduce noise and harmful emissions.

A very pro-active multi millionaire, in our city, is in the process to electrify 2,000 taxis (close to 45% of the current fleet) and as many school buses (close to 20% of the Provincial fleet by 2025).

Concurrently, city public buses and suburban trains will be progressively electrified between 2016 and 2030. Close to 50% of the passenger miles/Km are already done on electrified vehicles, mostly on e-trains and subways.

Bob Wallace

Also the Tesla X is being sold and the Audi has not yet been proven to get past the concept stage.

Nick, Amazon which is a hugely successful company is not profitable when one looks at the bottom line. Amazon, like Tesla, has a very nice markup on the product they sell. Amazon, like Tesla, is spending money to grow the company. Both companies are spending now in order to make even more money later.

And if you like to figure out Tesla's likely production of their ModX over the next year or so then look up the number of reservations they accepted before cutting them off (24,000?). And then look at when they expect to reopen sales.

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