How easy is it to upgrade Tesla Tech Hardware

How easy is it to upgrade Tesla Tech Hardware

IPhone's, iPads, computers, all go through annual (or even semi-annual) hardware upgrades (e.g. iPhone, iPhone 2, iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, 4s, 5). We are already seeing critics point out that the Model S tech package does not include 4G. I know the tech firmware can be upgraded. But how easy do you think it will be for Tesla to offer hardware upgrades. Will it be a major effort/cost to swap in next years tech? Is it modular and swap-able? Or will it basically become an outdated piece of hardware that can only be updated by buying the latest year's model. What do you know? What do you think?

sergiyz | 05. oktober 2012

I think it will be the same as for other auto-manufacturers, once it's in the car, you're stuck with it.
It's either after market equipment or a new car.

ThorensP | 05. oktober 2012

I suspect you are correct, but it would be an interesting differentiator to design the dashboard pad to allow for swapping or easy upgrading. I expect to own my Model S for a long time. I would love to continue to be excited about the next tech upgrade each year. And it would be an ongoing source of annuity revenue for Tesla to be able to sell an annual tech upgrade subscription.

Brian H | 05. oktober 2012

I had heard otherwise, that a 4G module would be installed later as an upgrade. Not certain.

ThorensP | 05. oktober 2012

Brian H,
I have heard that Tesla is planning some hardware upgrades around the car during the early deliver phases as they get the kinks worked out, but I wonder if this is just a temporary policy or if it will be turned into an ongoing policy of offering modular upgrades so you don't have to purchase an entire new car.

BYT | 05. oktober 2012

I know I would be willing to pay for hardware updates for my Model S to keep it feeling new and would be even willing to spend, oh, I don't know, maybe $600 a year for it? ;)

jbunn | 05. oktober 2012

Planned obsolence was perfected by the automobile industry. While Tesla COULD make upgraded hardware, like new processors for the displays, it kind of canabalizes the sales of the newer models. Because really they want you to be so giddy with the 2012 model that you will want to trade it in on a 2016 with adaptive cruise, and robotic auto drive.

Aftermarket is an option, however there needs to be some standardization. Car manufactures all make holes in the dash about the same size that aftermarket radios are easily swapped in. But for the foreseeable future the aftermarket market won't be large enough for much custom stuff aimed specificaly at Tesla owners.

sergiyz | 05. oktober 2012

I can already see new gen coming out in the next 3 years or so, probably with an improved battery, lighter and with more options.
Battery alone would be worth it, i'll happily trade my in for that :)

Brian H | 05. oktober 2012

I doubt that TM is concerned about "recycling" past purchasers with planned obsolescence. Other manufacturers (note sp.) are demand limited. TM's future and plans do not include that option.

jbunn | 05. oktober 2012


For now, they are demand limited. By the fall of next year, if they kick the production up as desired they will clear the backlog and many of the new reservations. I suspect the their plans take into consideration that at some point the will need to ramp reservations up to the level of product - 20 to 30K/yr on the S. Right now incoming reservations are nowhere near that. We can guess at their plans, but their future? Well... Speculation on our part. I for one think it's going to be bright, plunked down my cash as soon as I could scrape it together, and have no worries about buying an orphan. The tech is a game changer. I'm also an on/off stock holder, and feel good about that. (just wanted to make sure my position wasn't misunderstood).

But EVERYONE, from product developers, to inventors, to spouses, are allways concerned (if they are wise) about improvement. As my old boss once said "my job is to figure out how high a bar you can jump over. And once you can do that, my job is to raise the bar".

If Telsa pans out it's a short matter of time before other auto manufactures roll out similar or improved products. Allways happens. And the first guy to roll out a technology is not allways the guy to win the market.

I have a friend in the grape growing ag biz that says there is a saying in the Columbia Valley, where he grows. It's the third guy to own the property that makes money. The guy that clears the scrub and rocks goes broke. The guy that plants the vines and puts in the irrigation goes broke. The third guy makes a living at it.

If Tesla is smart (and I know they are) they can already feel the hot breath of their competetors on their neck. So while "planned obsolence" may not be the strategy, or even a polite term, it's a given. Perhaps it would be more polite to say Tesla will plan to produce version after version so compellingly good that it will pry people out of their 2012's, as well as convert them from ICE. Because if they don't continue to innovate (and canabalize), one of their competitors will be happy to sell a similar/better tech
to you.

Brian H | 06. oktober 2012

TM is always (for decades?) going to have a much smaller customer pool than non-customer pool to sell to. Since Elon is so "evangelistic", the latter will be targeted. Key to that is keeping the existing pool happy, and pulling obsolescence fast ones does not aid in that.

mrspaghetti | 06. oktober 2012

@jbunn: ...they can already feel the hot breath of their competitors on their neck

I'd argue that there are no competitors yet for the market Tesla is targeting with the Model S. Who else makes an electric luxury sedan, or even has one planned?

jbunn | 06. oktober 2012

Did not say there were competetors NOW. Whai I said was if Tesla pans out its only a short matter of time...

Show me any "mousetrap", and together we can find at least one other guy trying to design a better one. Does not matter the industry. Innovate or die.

BMW, Volvo, probably a few others have plans underway. Tesla does not have a lock on laptop batteries. And gen III will need to compare with cars like the Fusion which is fun to drive, and will advance over the years.

You cant rest on your laurels.

haansberger | 07. oktober 2012

Having spent my professional live in military aviation, I must say that having some kind of modular concept is the way to go. The hardware we fly around with these days is still the same as 35 years ago, but the capabilities and software have changed significantly. Putting the jet I started with next to a recent version is like comparing apples and oranges. And most important, it kept the manufacture make money over all those years.
If Tesla would be able to make their Model S upgradable, I am convinced that in the end, they would make more money out of the car then if they just sell-and-forget. I don't see many people trade in their S after a few years, just to have the 3.0 version. But I do see them spend money on upgrades that are both affordable and worth while. What I call a win-win situation :-)

dborn | 07. oktober 2012

+1 Haansberger!

Brian H | 07. oktober 2012

Trouble is there aren't enough parts in the S to make small modules. Replace the motor? PEM? The whole battery? Possible, but not trivial.

Teoatawki | 07. oktober 2012

Wifi and cellular hardware. Adaptive cruise control, side mirror cameras, blind spot sensors, self parking.

MandL | 07. oktober 2012

Don't forget Mercedes and Toyota. Tesla has already done the hard work for them. They can pretty quickly produce Tesla-powered vehicles with all the add-on bells and whistles they've perfected over the years. I will be surprised if Mercedes doesn't beat Tesla's new Roadster to the market with an electric SLK.

jerry3 | 07. oktober 2012

Tesla has a history of providing hardware upgrades to Roadster owners. I doubt this will change for the Model S.


While there is little doubt the big car companies could do what you say, so far they have shown little interest in doing more than providing prototypes or hamstrung EVs. They make far more money (currently) with ICE cars and they don't want to interrupt that business. I suspect that by the time they get serious about making real electric powered cars it will be too late for most of them.

Most carriage makers didn't survive into the automotive age either.

mrspaghetti | 07. oktober 2012

@jerry3 +1

It's a common assumption that big, established companies in a given industry will adapt and undersell newcomers easily. It's also commonly proven wrong - big companies often have too much momentum to change course fast enough to avoid the icebergs.

ThorensP | 07. oktober 2012

+1 haansberger,

Tesla is clearly seeking to redefine the auto industry. Modularizing key components could be an interesting direction to take. That's not to say that every component in the car could be easily compentized, but it would be interesting to do an return on investment analysis of the various Model S components. If we assign an A, B, or C to indicate the relative value to Tesla of componentization with periodic upgrades (where A = Highest Value, B= Moderate Value, C= Least Relative Value) and a 1, 2, or 3 to indicate relative cost to Tesla of componentization (1=lowest cost, etc.) the A1s would be the low hanging fruit. Anyone want to take a shot at doing an ABC123 analysis on various components. Here are some examples:

1. Dashboard Pad = A1 (High Value, Annual update, Easily componentized)
2. Battery = A1 (High Value as new batteries come along, already basically componentized, so it would be low cost to make into a component)
3. Consoles (Front and Backseat) = A1 (Lots of demand for different designs, inexpensive to insert as component.)
4. Chassis = C3 (Few people would pay to change out the chassis and it would be very expensive to make it into a component.)

nickjhowe | 07. oktober 2012

At the original launch event I spoke to the software and hardware engineers behind the 17" display. They said that they were taking a very modular approach and that the Tegra chipset and the 3G modules would be plug and play upgrades. (e.g., ability to swap out 3G for 4G)

At the Palo Alto event I spoke to a senior service tech who confirmed a LOT of modularization and 'swapability' for various tech in the car.

How much will actually be offered as upgrades is anyone's guess (anyone outside TM, anyway) but at least the capability seems to be there.

Brian H | 08. oktober 2012

j3, t.m., +1

There's also the wee matter of patents.

OTOH, EM claims to want to encourage all makers to advance EV tech and sell as many as possible. He claims to be OK with the thought of the majors producing better EVs cheaper than TM and taking over the market. As long as they actually "get on with it"!

After all, he still has SpaceX, Mars, the universe, and everything to play with! And intends to die of old age on Mars. >9)

mknox | 10. oktober 2012

At my Get Amped test drive, a Tesla rep strongly hinted that front and/or rear parking assist sensors may be coming. When I asked if the car had them, the answer was "not yet" with a grin.