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Tesla CTO: We’ve shifted core focus to Model 3, majority of employees now working on mass production of $35,000 vehicle

JB StraubelTesla’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel was at the University of Nevada, Reno earlier this week to talk to students and announce a new internship program for the company’s Gigafactory. As part of its Gigafactory deal, Tesla is pumping $1 million into the University of Nevada’s Battery research program.

During his presentation, Straubel confirmed that after launching the Model X last month, Tesla now shifted its core focus on the anticipated next generation vehicle: the Model 3. The CTO said that most employees are now working on the project:

“This is the vehicle we are actually developing today, most of the people inside Tesla are no longer working on the S or X, but they are hard at work designing and inventing all the technologies going into the Model 3.”

The Model 3 is expected to have a starting price of $35,000 before any incentives and a range of more than 200 miles. The company is working on a new battery architecture to achieve such a significant price reduction.

Tesla is developing the Model 3 alongside its battery factory which they expect will reduce battery cost by at least 30% through economy of scale and a new chemical structure.

The company is building the Model 3 on a whole new platform, which they are calling “third generation”, with the Roadster being the first, and the Model S and X being built on the same second generation platform. During the Q&A part of the talk, a student asked Straubel how much of the technologies developed in the second generation will transfer to the third:

“For better or worst, most of model 3 has to be new. [with the ] X, we were able to build with a lot of common components with S, but with the Model 3 we can’t do that. We are inventing a whole new platform […] It’s a new battery architecture. It’s a new motor technology [and] a brand new vehicle structure. It’s a lot of work. It’s a thing we started on a few years ago. As I mention, it’s kind of the core focus inside the company now looking at R&D and engineering investment.”

Tesla will release the Model Y on the same platform. While the Model 3 is expected to be a small sedan, the Y is believed to be a crossover with ‘Falcon Wing’ doors like the Model X.

The automaker aims at bringing to market those two new models in 2017, doubling Tesla’s lineup to four S3XY models.

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You can watch Straubel’s entire talk here:

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