Is the 40 kWh pack “dead on arrival”?

Is the 40 kWh pack “dead on arrival”?

I was going to get the 40 kWh pack and a new 4cl ICE for long range driving when I put in my reservation (P469) what seems like eons ago. My rational then was put the extra 20K toward the ICE and upgrade to a 500+mi pack in 5yrs.

In the time since, I have bought a 2010 Nissan Rouge but now will not buy a 40 kWh pack due to lack of support TSLA has shown toward the 40 kWh pack (e.g. no super charging, no firm commitment for upgrading, shorter warranty… personally I think they will pull this battery option off the table next year). So now I have to go with at least the 60 kWh pack. The other reason is the pricing of the performance Model S. Assuming you have the money, do you now go full bore and upgrade for 0 to 60 @4.4 sec to get a true “super car”? I keep my cars for ten or more years so I see the 40 kWh as being obsolete well before that time (not compared to what is currently on the market but to the pace of innovation by TSLA itself). Conclusion for me: the 40 kWh is DOA so increase my TSLA shares to cover the upgrade to a performance Model S !!!!

Update: I used profit from TSLA & APPL (before the drop) to buy a SIG P85 ! I’m back in the TSLA stock @ 28 for now …. given the "Cliff", I may flip the shares again.

Mycroft | January 18, 2012

Very strange logic, but if it works for you...

Larry Chanin | January 18, 2012

Hi Joe,

It really depends on what YOU want. If you want a performance Model S then this question about the viability of the 40 kWh battery is irrelevant. If you plan on taking long road trips then I think it would be imprudent to go with the 40 kWh battery, even if Supercharging were available.

If on the other hand you only need a commuter vehicle then I don't think that the 40 kWh battery is DOA. There will be many sold and Tesla will maintain them and honor the warranty. Its irrelevant whether at some later date they phase out the 40 kWh battery for new vehicles your warranty will still be in effect.

I personally believe that at a later date they will eventually offer battery upgrades. After all Tesla has gone on record as saying that upgrades are "technically possible". However, we shouldn't be surprised that from a business perspective they don't wish to immediately get into the upgrade business when they are trying to startup the company.


Robert.Boston | January 18, 2012

I disagree with your thesis that the 40kWh battery is DOA. It is, however, designed to appeal to a segment of the market that views their Model S as an "around the Bay" (or whatever your local geography might be) vehicle, with the tacit assumption that you have a long-range vehicle available.
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum are people who love cars and are willing to invest serious dollars in getting a serious performance car. The Performance version of the Model S provides a great price-point for this market.
Tesla is remarkable in having a single platform that can both be a premium commuter and a high-street-cred performance monster.
The future is uncertain. Buy the product that best suits your need, with a reasonable look forward to avoid buying instant obsolescence.
The 40kWh pack won't be instantly obsolescent, but it will serve a limited role.
Don't rely on investment outcomes to create the purchasing power you need for basics. Although I agree that TSLA is a good mid-term investment, I will not be boxed into needing to sell my shares at a particular point in time so that I can afford to buy a particular product, be that a house, car, or gerbil.

TikiMan | January 18, 2012

No way is it DOA. Based on the lower price point, I am sure they will sell tens of thousands of the base 160 mile Model S's to anyone that wants a typical commuter EV for under $60k. It will likely overtake the Nissan Leaf in sales numbers in less than a year of production.

Volker.Berlin | January 18, 2012

Re: Shorter warranty. The warranty is the same eight years for all battery types, but mileage is limited on the smaller batteries. That makes physical sense because (roughly speaking) the same mileage puts more stress on a smaller battery than it does on a larger one.

The mileage limit for the 40kWh battery is 100k miles. To exceed this limit, you have to drive 35 miles on average on every single day in these 8 years, or 250 miles every week, or 12,500 miles per year (12,500 miles is 20,000 km). If your driving is around these numbers or less, the mileage limit on the warranty does not affect you at all. If you drive considerably more, you should probably consider a larger battery, anyway.

Bottom line for me: Other factors aside, the conditions of warranty alone do not seem to offer any argument against the 40kWh battery, and they are no indication that Tesla does not want to sell or support this battery size.

gjunky | January 19, 2012

I have written TM and asked to consider letting us use the super chargers with the 40Kwh battery at a lower charge rate. The battery pack could then charge in the same time (but at a lower rate) as the larger packs.

Apparently, according to an email from TM, the 160 mile pack can be charged in about 2 hours IF you install the second charger and of course provide enough juice. To me, this is still too long for a road trip. However, if we could charge the pack in one hour or less with the super charger, it would become possible to take longer road trip.

And before someone comments with "why don't you just buy the larger pack", simple: I don't want to spend 10K on something I use a few times and I don't want to rent/borrow a car for this trip because I would have just bought the best car on the road.

For 300+ days out of the year, the 40Kwh pack would be fine for me (and probably a lot of people). I just want an option for the other times.

Mycroft | January 19, 2012

It's your decision, but I see a lot of benefits to the 60kWh pack:

- snappier performance

- a bit earlier delivery

- a standard range of 180 miles without forcing the pack with range mode

- better longevity. If you could get by with the 160 pack, the 230 will last quite a few more years before it becomes unusable.

- faster charging, even with a single charger - as shown by the acceleration improvement, you'll be able to push electrons into the pack much faster than the 40kWh pack.

And yes, you can use the "supercharger".

Sudre_ | January 19, 2012

gjunky I don't think Teslamis being mean. I think there are just limitations on how many amps can gomthru the wiringnandminto the battery at that size. That is just speculation tho. It would be to Tesla adjantage to allow all vehicles to charge is relatively the same way. The 40kwh battery may charge faster when plugged into the super charger just not at supernchargernspeedsmlike the other battery's,then again the supermcharger may not even plug in.

Sudre_ | January 19, 2012

I hate auto correction on tablets! It either doesn't work or changes everything.

EdG | January 19, 2012

Pretty funny, though. Thanks for telling us why the spelling came out that way..

ckessel | January 19, 2012

I'm either 40kwh or 85kwh. The 230 doesn't do much for me. If I'm purely going to have this be an around town car, 160 is fine and I save $20k. If I'm going to use the Model S for longer trips, I want the 300. The 230 is the worst of both worlds, more expensive, but not enough range for the trips I have in mind.

Robert.Boston | January 19, 2012

It's interesting the Elon stated that he thought most people would opt for the 60kWh pack. I'm with ckessel; once I started doing the math on normal range after some battery degradation, I realized that the only meaningful options for me were to buy small and use the car solely inside a short radius of my house, or to buy big and enjoy round-trips to almost anywhere in New England.

HJ-45 | January 19, 2012

Sticking with the the 40kWh battery. Most of the objections to this battery (charging, 0-60 time) have no importance to my personal situation. This will be my commuter car and I drive only 50 miles/day for work. I drew two circles on the map. The first one at 60 miles gets me round trip travel to Portland, Me; Concord, NH; Manchester, NH; and north Boston. All have large shopping availability with access to 3 international airports. I drew another circle for 120 miles to get to a charging station and that includes a huge chunk of New England. This should meet 95% of my needs with the other 5% covered with my motorhome and other vehicles.

Also, the 40kWh is already at the upper limit of my $$ (cant believe the wife is letting me get this) so I will spend the $$ on the $57k car with options rather than get a larger battery with no options.

Sudre_ | January 19, 2012

Here's how I came up with my battery choice of the 60kW battery.

60kW battery goes 240 miles in range mode. Looks like I can super charge it in some fashion. Super charging will add about 36kWatts or 144 miles. Total possible one day drive is around 384 miles if I kill the battery which I won't because that would get me to Chicago (location of Tesla Dealer) with plenty room to exceed 55mph. I all likely situations I would not drive to Chicago because Amtrak is cheaper and less hassle.

The 85kW battery choice does not offer my (wife's) long distance driving preference which is 500 miles in around 8 hours. (63 mph average) The 85Kw battery can only manage 480 miles if you drain the battery and charge once in the middle at lunch. The mileage would drop even more considering I'll be averaging speeds over 55mph. More than one charge starts extending the 8 hour day to 9 and my wife will start complaining too much. So long road trips are out even with super charging. Mind you my wife's idea of a very long road trip is 1000 miles and stopping for one night. We just recently made that trip to Florida and I don't think she will do it again.
So in my mind the 85kW battery is a total waist.

Why not the 45kW battery? Many of the places in rural Missouri that we frequent are about 80 miles one way. Just a little too far for the 45kW battery round trip. Yes we could charge once there if a charging option was ever available but it will be many many years before rural Misory (spelling is on purpose) ever considers anything electric to be a car and I don't feel like hanging around a camp ground for hours on end. I am still considering this battery but have mostly ruled it out.

By not buying the 85kW battery I will save $10K. That's 10 plane tickets for my wife and I plus a nice car rental for a week. Since we only make one trip of that distance a year that's 10 years of travel.

Peak Oil bruin | January 19, 2012

Sticking with the 40kW model, but
1. I feel we'll be able to swap with better tech at lower cost within warranty time frame
2. I'm not the Nissan Rogue or the Speed Racer (Performance model) type.

Liz G | January 19, 2012

still can't decide which way to go 40 or 60. Wondering if Tesla will let me change my mind if I order the 40 and then decide to switch. assuming they haven't started building it yet. its pricing out at $80,000 for the 60 not sure if I can justify that amount. Will probably flip flop right up until the last possible moment

I always stress out over big purchases.

Just realized this car will cost more than the first house I bought back in grad school

Brian H | January 20, 2012

To all commenters here: thoroughly investigate the site. It give 5 & 10 yr comparisons on costing (TCO). In general, you save thousands to tens of thousands over that time, using base model costs. Those "savings" (discounted to PV) defray options or upgrades to larger batteries.

As soon as the Model X is "revealed", similar comparisons will be developed for it.

Brian H | January 20, 2012

Correction: "... using base through Signature Performance model costs."

BYT | January 20, 2012

Cool to see a chart with this data, I had already done it in my head. When you see what all the other offerings are and what features and limitations of each, the Model S is a tremendous value even if it "feels" like a premium. I wish I was rich... :D

ckessel | January 20, 2012

Interesting that you can basically extrapolate out the Leaf line and it runs into the Tesla points. I suppose we can look at that as the EV cost of ownership line.

EdG | January 20, 2012

If you translate the EVs upward $7500 on the graph (i.e., removing the US federal help), the results get a lot less dramatic, though still positive.

JoeFee | February 10, 2012


1) If the Model X is any clue, the 40 kWh pack is already a dead-end … MIA not even DOA (available).

2) The TSLA buy has worked out nicely so far, despite today's correction. The earnings report will be key this time.

Joe F

stephen.kamichik | February 10, 2012

The 40 kWh pack may not be dead. In the model X application, a ten percent drop in range is not acceptable. I am sure the 40 kWh pack will be ressurected for the upcoming $30k car.

Brian H | February 10, 2012

IAC, the X is not designed as a commuter vehicle, particularly. That knocks out most of the 160-mi. market.

Timo | February 11, 2012

Say 100 mile market. Model X probably gets 160 miles with 60kWh battery.

Robert.Boston | February 11, 2012

Range reduction on the Model X was cited as 10% to 12%, so the "160 mile" S range would have been about 140 miles. This alone wouldn't doom the 40kWh application in the Model X, but it may have been the slower 0-60 times which, on a larger vehicle, would have been even more pronounced.

I'm sure that Tesla intends to release the 40kWh on the S.

Brian H | February 11, 2012

"Timo | February 11, 2012 new

Say 100 mile market. Model X probably gets 160 miles with 60kWh battery.:
We were discussing the 40kwh battery, and why it wouldn't be useful in the X. The 60kwh battery probably gets >200 mi.

Timo | February 12, 2012

I'm betting <200 miles. 190 to be exact and way less than that in highway speeds. I didn't calculate my estimate before throwing that 160 mile estimate, but I'm pretty sure it is not very far from highway speed range. Might be overpessimistic for 50mph.

Discoducky | February 12, 2012

For Bluestar, 40kWh would most likely be over 200 miles due to lower Cd, pack being incrementally lighter (not even considering next gen batteries, but the thermal solution, crash protection and structural rigidity tolerances) and smaller (possibly smaller footprint of chassis will require tighter packaging), lower rolling resistance (smaller tires and incremental increases in tread design).

So no, not dead on arrival, when you consider future applications and leveraging existing technologies for incremental improvements.

Timo | February 13, 2012

Bluestar I agree. Model S battery pack is actually part of the structure which makes estimating its weight difficult, but I think it is at least 30% lighter (relatively) than Roadster battery pack just because of that. If Tesla makes next gen Roadster using that current battery tech, similar methods as Model S and as good Cd as they have in Model S they would get 350+ miles easily from 60kWh battery and 250 from 40kWh.

What I mean by "part of the structure" is that instead of having separate pack and support to carry it you use battery itself as a support for car body, which drops this entire structure from supporting pack away + quite a bit of car frame away. It is ingenious engineering, something that no other manufacturer does. Others are still thinking ICE terms.

I'm waiting to see performance next gen Roadster with double engines. Pure guess: 2.7 secs 0-60, top speed 150-170mph, gets close to if not under 9 sec quartermile, cost ~$100k with a lot better looks than current generation Roadster.

For "my car" I wait for something that's smaller than Model S but bigger than Roadster with AWD. I hope "Bluestar" is something like that. It doesn't need to be super cheap, just a bit cheaper than Model S (I hope) practical every day car that fits in four adults (five if they are slim). Something like VW Golf, but with Tesla finesse. For that battery selection of 40, 60, 85 and 100kWh (with 100kWh price close to current 85kWh Model S).

Volker.Berlin | February 13, 2012

Timo, it will be hard (I think: very unlikely) to get that kind of top speed if Tesla sticks to their single gear fixed ratio transmission (which I assume they will). There are a couple of reasons why I think acceleration is more important to Tesla than top speed, and they will optimize the fixed gear ratio for the former at expense of the latter:

Acceleration is more frequently experienced by the average driver than top speed.
Acceleration in the 3 second range is a far more spectacular experience than top speed in the 150+ mph range.
It's the acceleration where the EV can easily outperform any remotely comparable ICE by a comfortable margin. Hard to outperform ICE in the top speed department, so what's the point?
Hard acceleration puts some peak load on the batteries for a few seconds. Going at 150+ mph would put a similar load on the batteries for a much longer time (like, 30 minutes or more, on a Sunday morning in Germany). Not only would this probably damage batteries at current technology, it would also easily slash the actual range to incredibly small fractions of the nominal range. Auto press would jump on that immediately.

Pure speculation obviously, but that's why I expect the next-gen Roadster to follow its predecessor in the hilarious acceleration, moderate top speed characteristics.

Volker.Berlin | February 13, 2012

And yeah, I think I said that before, but IMO the 40 kWh battery size is nowhere near dead, despite the fact that it does not make sense with the Model X.

Robert.Boston | February 13, 2012

While Tesla is sticking to the 40/60/85 progression for the S and derivatives, the Bluestar / GenIII vehicle will be a completely different, smaller platform and will therefore almost surely have different kWh points. Battery chemistry is also evolving.

Timo | February 13, 2012

If they use Model S performance -type motors then low speed acceleration is more limited by traction than motor capability, that's why they can use longer gear setting which in turn gives not only higher top speed, but also bigger RPM range where you experience that acceleration. That's why I increased top speed to 150-170mph. Also much better aerodynamics give ability to go faster before air resistance grows too big (top speed still limited by loss of torque at very high motor RPM, not by losses caused by various other sources).

This would cause pretty much same strain to battery as 125mph causes to current Roadster. You still need to floor it in order to get it there. Roadster torque at 125mph is very low.

Pure guesses of course, but not completely without reasoning behind it.

Brian H | February 13, 2012

I don't think your image of the Bluestar is going to be quite right; in particular, I think price point is going to be a major focus and issue. I'd expect the S-Roadster pattern to repeat: you have to get a top-line fully loaded S to match the base Roadster price. Similarly, a maxed-out Bluestar might reach base Model S range ($60K before incentives). Considering battery bumps etc. etc. that says base Bluestar around $30K to me.

Timo | February 13, 2012

Lets fix that a bit "with fully loaded 100kWh price close to current base 85kWh Model S". Now it looks a bit more what I had in my mind.

Small battery base model obviously a lot cheaper.

Leofingal | February 13, 2012

I hope this comes as soon as we all are talking (2015). I might hand my S down to my wife and get the BlueStar if I can get it in the configuration I want. I've always been a fan of smaller vehicles. This S will be much bigger than any car I ever intended to buy.

Brian H | February 13, 2012

If the B-Star is smaller and lighter, there could be quite a few more mi/kwh. But by 2015 battery tech could well be in that range, if the 17%/annum pattern holds.

Timo | February 13, 2012

My hope is that Bluestar has really big battery as option, Model S is almost what I want and not much too expensive either, it is just too big for me. I want smaller, more agile car that has similar interior, just a bit less space (seats four or five), preferably AWD, and longer maximum range. If Tesla makes such a car I don't care if it costs nearly same as Model S, I would buy it (if Finnish taxes don't make it cost ridiculous amount as it looks today).

(they just invented a new tax for plug-in hybrids, so that they cost more than normal hybrids. Really nice for them. I wonder when they figure out that people should pay taxes for breathing clean air instead of gasoline fumes...)

americantoys | February 13, 2012

I just hope that by 2015 I'm still walking on the ground rather than under it.

Brian H | February 14, 2012

Annually, in Feb. leading up to today (14th):
"The Valentine's Day gift that says it all: A TM Model X filled with boxes of chocolates!"

Wonder how many that would be ...


EdG | February 15, 2012

If Bluestar is to be priced more in line with most pockets' reach, there's no way it will use the same battery tech as the Model S. Just increasing the S from 40 to 65 kWh is big bucks. They're going to have to use more modern technology to reduce the costs of purchasing cells and building packs if the total car is going to come in at the price equivalent of today's $35K cars.

Volker.Berlin | February 15, 2012

EdG, that's the main reason, if not the only reason, why Bluestar is not yet available. Tesla has to max out developments in battery tech and economics of scale to make Bluestar possible, and every additional few months help a lot in this regard.

Teoatawki | February 15, 2012

I was under the impression that battery packs were (had been, anyway) mostly hand assembled. Anyone have information on the current and projected level of automation in battery pack assembly?

Tom A | February 16, 2012

For me, living in the DC beltway region, the 40kWh pack would be more than sufficient. I could drive from DC to Baltimore, drive around for parking, then after seeing the sights, drive to Annapolis, repeat, then drive home to DC with plenty of charge left. Even in summer with the AC blasting and the occasional traffic jams. That's a ~117 mile trip, minus the driving around looking for parking.

I would like to have the Model S, any version, for 6 months, like from January to July, to get a taste of how it drives and how well I adapt to it, spanning everything from cold winter to rainy spring to hot/humid summer. I have owned an automatic full-size sedan, a manual compact hatchback, and now a hybrid SUV. In every case, I have always been able to beat the highest EPA ratings by 3-5 mpg over the entire length of ownership.

Stating a range of 160 @ 55mph is very encouraging, since aerodynamic drag starts becoming the dominant load by the time you get over 40-45 mph. I think that the 40kWh pack could reasonably get 180 miles or more if the driving was mostly an urban and suburban mix (as long as you're not drag racing at every traffic light).

Unfortunately, buying one is *just* out of reach, particularly renting in this region. I don't have tons of cash laying around, so if I were to get the 40kWh pack, with $4,500 in upgrades (aero wheels, leather seats for light color and heating, and twin chargers, base white paint for lower summer cooling loads), I would have to finance ~$50k. Even with my excellent credit, that makes for a steep monthly payment on top of rent.

If I owned property and had a personal garage for charging purposes (apartments and condos here are largely hostile to cars with plugs), I would have a reservation now and would be looking into financing solar arrays. It's hard being single and renting - no tax shelters/dodgers other than a 401(k) and a medical FSA, and nowhere to charge overnight.

Mycroft | February 16, 2012

That's ok Tom, Bluestar is right around the corner. Maybe by then you can find a townhouse that includes a garage and save enough money to pay cash!

Brian H | February 16, 2012

Speaking of batteries et al., there was a question in the conference call about possible use of better cheaper (e.g. $200/kW) batteries in the S & X lines in addition to the GenIII products down the road. The only answer was 'could be. You never know what the river card is going to be!'

So, notwithstanding Tesla's admonition not to buy with the intention of upgrading the battery later, I think any owner and buyer should in fact keep that option in mind. Absent any showstopper tech reason prohibiting it, it makes good sense to think in terms of going from 40 to 60 to 85 to 100 to ... over time. I know Tesla does not want to overtly promote or encourage such planning up front, but that's because of the huge range of implied obligations and complications it opens up in marketing and servicing and so on.

But from the owner's POV, I think it's very much on the table.

Mycroft | February 16, 2012

Yep, a good possibility, but not something to count on as being absolute. It might end up making more sense to sell the 40 used, and buying the new tech directly.

Robert.Boston | February 16, 2012

Also clearly stated: a three-year cycle on batteries. So, don't look for a major new battery pack on the S before Summer 2015 -- which, I would note, conveniently lines up with the timeframe of the GenIII.

Brian H | February 16, 2012

The 3-yr cycle is his best estimate. If there are dramatic enough developments in the supply stream before that, TM may be inspired/required to accommodate them.